a / the which one to choose

Senth

New Member
Polish
I have a question regarding a / the articles. If anyone can explain why there should be "the" instead of "a" in the sentence.


"The" dolphin is said to be a very friendly animal.
"A" dolphin lives in the sea.

According to key there should be "the" in the first one and "A" in the second.

Will it be mistake if I put "a" insead of "the" in the first sentence?

Thank you for your help.
 
  • I'm not a native speaker but I think the second sentence refers to a specific dolphin while the first one is about dolphins in general. I was taught that when you refer to something (e.g. animals) in general you have two possibilities... you can say:
    A. The lion lives in the jungle.
    B. Lions live in the jungle.
     

    Thomas Tompion

    Senior Member
    English - England
    I have a question regarding a / the articles. If anyone can explain why there should be "the" instead of "a" in the sentence.


    "The" dolphin is said to be a very friendly animal.
    "A" dolphin lives in the sea.

    According to key there should be "the" in the first one and "A" in the second.

    Will it be mistake if I put "a" insead of "the" in the first sentence?

    Thank you for your help.
    I'm not surprised you find this hard, Senth. It seems to me a thoroughly bad question. Many natives would get it wrong, according to the posited answer.

    The dolphin can mean dolphins in general, so we could say either the dolphin lives in the sea, or, more probably, dolphins live in the sea. A dolphin lives in the sea is possible also, with its suggestion that if one came across a dolphin, one would find it lived in the sea.

    These forms seem to me very much the same for being a friendly animal, though I find A dolphin seems to be a very friendly animal even odder than a dolphin lives in the sea, for a reason which eludes me.

    The point seems to me so abstruse that I wouldn't worry about it: I'd say the dolphin or dolphins for the general case and a dolphin for the particular one.
     

    Senth

    New Member
    Polish
    Thank you very much for your help. I guess I know all the rules but if you're doing tests it's sometimes hard to choose. You never know what the author meant.
     

    Thomas Tompion

    Senior Member
    English - England
    Thank you very much for your help. I guess I know all the rules but if you're doing tests it's sometimes hard to choose. You never know what the author meant.
    No, and when it's a question of what the author meant rather than what is the correct English, you wonder if it's time to use a different book.
     
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