a/the riddle

VicNicSor

Senior Member
Russian
Someone left an envelope with a riddle inside it for Wayne. His secretary asks him:
-- Who would send you a riddle?
-- That, Maggie... is the riddle.
Batman Forever, movie

"Who would send him a riddle is for sure a riddle. But what is the reason for using THE here?
Does he mean that what was in the envelope is just an ordinary riddle, but this one (who sent ...) is a special one, and that's why THE is used? Thank you.
 
  • VicNicSor

    Senior Member
    Russian
    It is short for That is the riddle that we are faced with. The riddle is identified.
    But, by the same logic, the first "riddle" could have also been used with "the":
    Who would send you the riddle (that was in that envelope)?
    Who would send you the riddle (that you have just solved)?
    etc...
    Am I wrong?...
     
    Last edited:

    fiercediva

    Senior Member
    American English
    The idea is "who would send Bruce Wayne a riddle," generally speaking vs. referencing the specific riddle sent.

    Using "the riddle" with emphasis on the article in the following line also foreshadows that the answer, naturally, is The Riddler.
     

    Glasguensis

    Signal Modulation
    English - Scotland
    It is grammatically possible but I don't think a native speaker would ever say it (we would use "that" if we wanted to refer to the specific riddle). Here the question is why someone would want to sent any riddle.
     

    VicNicSor

    Senior Member
    Russian
    Thank you all!
    The implication of the first question is nobody sends you riddles.
    Yes, I see it, I just meant that I don't understand why the second line implied the identifying clause (while the first line doesn't)...
    And one thing, "That is the riddle that we are faced with" sounds like they had already been faced with that riddle before he opened the envelope in question, and when they opened that envelope, they saw that it was the same riddle they had been faced with...
    Using "the riddle" with emphasis on the article in the following line also foreshadows that the answer, naturally, is The Riddler.
    Sorry, but at that point Wayne didn't know yet about "the Riddler"...
     

    fiercediva

    Senior Member
    American English
    Thank you all!

    Yes, I see it, I just meant that I don't understand why the second line implied the identifying clause (while the first line doesn't)...
    And one thing, "That is the riddle that we are faced with" sounds like they had already been faced with that riddle before he opened the envelope in question, and when they opened that envelope, they saw that it was the same riddle they had been faced with...

    Sorry, but at that point Wayne didn't know yet about "the Riddler"...
    But the scriptwriter of "Batman Forever" does... and that is who is doing the foreshadowing (for the viewing audience). :)
     

    VicNicSor

    Senior Member
    Russian
    But the scriptwriter of "Batman Forever" does... and that is who is doing the foreshadowing (for the viewing audience). :)
    So, if we imagine this dialog in a context of real life, rather than a movie for an audience, then you would more likely use "A" here, right?:)
     

    fiercediva

    Senior Member
    American English
    No, I'd still use "the" because it's the first and only time such an unusually bizarre thing would have happened to me. Who goes around sending anonymous riddles to people? :)

    I'm just saying that the use of the article serves the secondary purpose of setting up the arrival of The Riddler. Even though Bruce Wayne has not yet met Riddler in the movie, many people watching the film will already be familiar with the Batman saga from the comic books and the Adam West TV series and will thus anticipate the reveal.
     

    Florentia52

    Modwoman in the attic
    English - United States
    So, if we imagine this dialog in a context of real life, rather than a movie for an audience, then you would more likely use "A" here, right?:)
    No. Here's an example that could easily come from real life:

    A: I've got a problem with my alarm clock. It's not loud enough to wake me up.
    B: The problem isn't your alarm clock; it's that you don't go to bed until 2 a,m.
     

    Glasguensis

    Signal Modulation
    English - Scotland
    We often use "the" to mean "the most important" or "the item we should consider". This is the usage here. The meaning would be very similar with "the real riddle..."
     
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