Bears have got fur, The bear has got fur (article)

JFP_sunny

Member
rumano
Hello, everybody!
I´v got some doubts about when, exactly, to use the article "THE". I know we use it when we want to differentiate an object of the others and when the object we´re talking about is the only one existing (as Sun, planets, for instance). We don´t have to use it when we´re talking about general categories, about weekends, years, seasons etc.
And even so, I´m not sure how should I say: The bear has got fur. or Bear has got fur. (I´m not talking about a specifically bear but about a bear, in general, whichever it might be)
I know that if I would put it in plural, like a general category, it would be "Bears have got fur."
But what about when it´s singular??
Thank you very much!
 
  • Cal inhibes

    Senior Member
    Spanish
    When it is singular, you should use "a" to obtain the general category. A bear is always looking for food. Otherwise, you must use the plural form: Bears are always looking for food.
    Regards
     

    The Newt

    Senior Member
    English - US
    It really depends on how you are thinking of the animal(s):

    Bears broke into our cabin last winter.
    The [black] bear has powerful claws.
    Bear are hard to track
    .

    The first ("bears") is the most common, and also is the form you would use when talking about several individual bears.

    "The bear" (more likely to be used for a specific species, i.e., "the grizzly bear") is often used when talking about the characteristics of an animal in general.

    The third ("bear" without an article) is not common, but is sometimes used:

    "Again, contrary to what many people may think, black bear are dangerous. There have been, in fact, more people killed by black bears than any other bear."

    Note that this last is a plural, even though it has a singular form.
     

    SevenDays

    Senior Member
    Spanish
    Interesting; instinctively, I would think it's the other way around:

    Contrary to what many people think, black bears are dangerous. There have been, in fact, more people killed by black bear than any other bear.

    The first "bear" directly precedes the verb, and agreement calls for the plural noun: black bears are dangerous. Later, "bear" appears verbless (there is no verb directly after it), and it takes a generic plural sense given the meaning of the sentence ("black bears kill more people").

    But, as I say, it's an interesting example.

    Cheers
     

    JFP_sunny

    Member
    rumano
    Thank you for your reply, The Newt!
    I understood your point regarding "the" but now I´ve got another uncertain issue: as I knew, "bear" has got as a plural, "bears". Reading your post, I understand that there are situations when the plural is the same "bear". Is it so? If I understood it well, when shall we use "bear" as a plural, instead of "bears"?!
    Thanks a lot!
     

    The Newt

    Senior Member
    English - US
    Thank you for your reply, The Newt!
    I understood your point regarding "the" but now I´ve got another uncertain issue: as I knew, "bear" has got as a plural, "bears". Reading your post, I understand that there are situations when the plural is the same "bear". Is it so? If I understood it well, when shall we use "bear" as a plural, instead of "bears"?!
    Thanks a lot!
    This gets a bit complicated. "Bear" has a regular plural "bears," which is never "wrong," but a number of game animals (boar, elk, deer, bear, etc.) have alternate plural forms that are identical to the singular. In some cases ("deer") the plural with "s" is rarely used and is considered incorrect; in other cases ("bear" and perhaps "elk") both plural forms exist.

    The plural form without "s" is generally used in contexts of hunting or observing the animals in the wild; thus "we shot two bear, three elk, and two boar last weekend." Outside those contexts, the plural with "s" is customary: "the San Diego Zoo has two polar bears on display."
     

    JFP_sunny

    Member
    rumano
    I see. But I suppose that when it´s about teaching English (primary school), the most appropiate would be to teach the plural with "s".
    Thanks!
     

    The Newt

    Senior Member
    English - US
    I see. But I suppose that when it´s about teaching English (primary school), the most appropriate would be to teach the plural with "s".
    Thanks!
    Yes. As long as you avoid the few forms that we don't use at all ("deers," etc.) you're safest with the regular plural: bears, etc.
     
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