a/the serious look

Phoebe1200

Senior Member
Russian-Russia
School of rock, TV series
Context: Mr.Finn and his class have snuck out of school to go play at Battle of the Bands. The hall monitor, Clark, saw them and immediately went to report it to the principal saying that they've taken off on an unauthorized trip and showing the flier of Battle of the Bands that was left behind. So, Clark and the principal have come to this club to bust them.

Principal: This better be good, Clark. I'm paying my catsitter overtime.
Clark: Oh, this is a clean bust. (right before opening the door) Behold! Mr.Finn and his class of rulebreakers. (After the principal enters the room he walks in saying) I can't wait to see a/the serious look on your face. (But the room was completely empty, so the principal was looking at Clark a bit angrily and Clark seeing that said) Yeah, that look.

I couldn't make out which article was used and need your help telling me which one would be used in this situation.
Thanks.:)
 
  • Phoebe1200

    Senior Member
    Russian-Russia
    Hello, Copyright!:)
    Thank you!

    And does "the" here mean some specific look that Clark had already pictured and was expecting the principal to have?
     

    Phoebe1200

    Senior Member
    Russian-Russia
    Thanks, Soundshift!:)
    And what would "a" mean in the OP?

    I can't wait to see a serious look on your face.
     
    Last edited:

    JulianStuart

    Senior Member
    English (UK then US)
    The only choice in the OP context is the, as SS has noted, so some other context might allow it. It might mean "I don't have time to wait for a particular look, (I have to leave now)".
     

    Copyright

    Senior Member
    American English
    Hello, Copyright!:)
    Thank you!

    And does "the" here mean some specific look that Clark had already pictured and was expecting the principal to have?
    That's exactly right – it's "the face" because it's "the face that is expected."

    We have another expression: to pull a face, meaning to make an expression; but since we don't know what that expression will be, we use "a" (as in, "one of many faces") rather than "the," which would refer to pretty much the same face/expression every time.
     
    Last edited:

    Glasguensis

    Signal Modulation
    English - Scotland
    It is slightly misleading to talk about a difference in meaning here - it's more a difference in when we would use each version.
    We would say
    "I can't wait to see a serious look on your face"
    if we were indicating that this would be something new or unusual - the person never has a serious face.
    We would say
    "I can't wait to see the serious look on your face" when we are referring to a particular occasion when we expect the person to have a serious face, which is the situation in the OP. The person may or may not have a serious face at other times.
     

    Phoebe1200

    Senior Member
    Russian-Russia
    Thank you, Glasguensis! Your explanation helped me understand the difference.:)

    Thank you everyone for your replies!:)
     
    < Previous | Next >
    Top