A vs the with "cottage"

TomasD

Senior Member
Croatia-Croatian
Hi Forumites!

A question (or two, but they are related):

Examples: "I am going to the cottage this weekend." "I was at the cottage this weekend".

Would you agree that the use of "a cottage" in such examples is unnatural? I rarely hear people say "I am off to a cottage".

If only "the" is natural, does it not suggest to the listener that you own the cottage? What if you don't own the cottage? Can you say, "oh, I spent the weekend at a cottage"? "I am going to a cottage this weekend". If you don't own it . . .

Or is "the cottage" more like an activity in that sense? "I am going to the cottage" = I am going to this place outside the city that people go to in the summer for some rest.
 
  • PaulQ

    Banned
    UK
    English - England
    Would you agree that the use of "a cottage" in such examples is unnatural?
    This is not a question of "natural" or "unnatural": The sentences
    I am going to the cottage this weekend." "I was at the cottage this weekend".
    and
    I am going to a cottage this weekend." "I was at a cottage this weekend"

    are both perfectly correct but mean totally different things.

    The cottage = that cottage that we both know.
    a cottage = an example of a cottage; a random cottage; any cottage; a cottage whose precise identity is unimportant.
     

    TomasD

    Senior Member
    Croatia-Croatian
    The cottage = that cottage that we both know.
    a cottage = an example of a cottage; a random cottage; any cottage; a cottage whose precise identity is unimportant.
    Thank you. But in that case, why do native speakers always tell me "Off to the cottage on Friday." "I was at the cottage this past weekend". And so on. In most cases, I don't even realize they own a cottage or anything like that until they tell me they went to one.

    Put this way: let's say you, PaulQ, plan on going to a cottage this weekend. It belongs to your friend. I don't know you have a friend who owns a cottage. You tell me, "Tomas, I am going to a/the cottage this weekend". A or the?
     

    Uncle Jack

    Senior Member
    British English
    I rarely hear people say "I am off to a cottage".
    It would be fine if they were saying where they were going on holiday: "We're off to a cottage in Devon, on the edge of Dartmoor".

    If only "the" is natural, does it not suggest to the listened that you own the cottage?
    It does not really suggest ownership, but it does suggest that this cottage is associated with you somehow, or merely that you have mentioned it before, such as on your return from the aforementioned holiday: "The cottage was wonderful, really isolated and backing right onto the moor".
    Or is "the cottage" more like an activity
    I suggest this is an avenue you don't wish to explore (but if you are curious, you could look up "cottaging":D).
    "I am going to the cottage" = I am going to this place outside the city that people go to in the summer for some entertainment.
    Decidedly not (unless it is a euphemism for the euphemism that is "cottaging"). If someone says they are going to the cottage, they mean a particular cottage, not any "place outside the city that people go to in the summer for some entertainment"
     
    Last edited:

    PaulQ

    Banned
    UK
    English - England
    But in that case, why do native speakers always tell me "Off to the cottage on Friday." "I was at the cottage this past weekend". And so on.
    I have no idea who these native speakers are, do I? I assume that whoever they are, they own the cottage and have assumed that you know that they own that particular cottage.
    You tell me, "Tomas, I am going to a/the cottage this weekend". A or the?
    "A cottage".

    When a new countable noun is introduced, it is introduced with "a", a determiner, or other descriptor. Once it has been mentioned to the listener, thereafter it is referred to as "the noun" because the listener is then aware of the specific thing that the noun refers to.

    A: "He owns a cottage" <- let us assume that this is "new information to B.
    B: "Where is it?"
    A: "In Devon."
    B: "Is the cottage very big?" <- "is the cottage (i.e. that we are now both aware of) very big?

    "The" is, in basic terms, a demonstrative adjective - Historically, it is related to "that" and often (but not always) "that can be used instead of "the."
     
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