Definite Article: making (the) love, (the) architecture, (the) horror films

ninjack

New Member
English - US
Some of the more common mistakes people make in their second languages is the use of the definitive article.

Languages with definitive articles don't always use them the same way.

French: faire l'amour
English: making love

French: j'etudie l'economie
English: I study economics (not: I am studying the economy)

In these two examples, economics and love in English don't need "the."

French: j'aime le jazz
English: I like jazz.

In English jazz is a proper noun and the speaker does not need to be more specific - the jazz vs just jazz. There's only one jazz. In French, however, one cannot drop the definitive article here.

French: prendre l'air
English: get some fresh air

In English, there is no specific air to be got.

French: Monsieur le Président
English: Mr. President

In English there is no need to specify this particular president when addressing him in person.

French: la semaine prochaine
English: next week

English is inconsistent here: next week, next summer, next year, but day after tomorrow, the day before yesterday.

French: le samedi
English: Saturday

French: les secrets de la bible
English: Secrets of the Bible.

English here could go both ways "The Secrets" or just "Secrets" but some languages cannot have titles that omit the definitive article.

French: le plan B
English: plan B

In English Plan B is already a specific thing.

English shows some inconsistency.

English: in darkness, in the dark

Saying "I like sitting in dark" is wrong and "I like sitting in the darkness" sounds strange.

Italian uses the definitive article even with determiners:
il mio cane (the my dog)
la mia famiglia (the my family)

How is the definitive article used in your language (if it exists)?
Is it needed for "my dog," for things like "fresh air," for "Saturday," for "next week," for "economics," "jazz," "Plan B"? For "making love," "dancing (the) tango," "play (the) guitar" "Hollywood films"? Or titles like "(The) Secrets of the Bible"?

Are there other usages for the definitive article that I have forgotten? Are there ones in your language that have no equivalent in English or French? (Like Italian's use: il mio cane)
 
  • jazyk

    Senior Member
    Brazílie, portugalština
    Plus Portuguese:

    Some of the more common mistakes people make in their second languages is the use of the definitive article.

    Languages with definitive articles don't always use them the same way.

    French: faire l'amour
    English: making love
    Portuguese: fazer amor - no article

    French: j'etudie l'economie
    English: I study economics (not: I am studying the economy)
    Portuguese: (eu) estudo economia - no article
    In these two examples, economics and love in English don't need "the."

    French: j'aime le jazz
    English: I like jazz.
    Portuguese: (eu) amo/adoro jazz - no article
    In English jazz is a proper noun and the speaker does not need to be more specific - the jazz vs just jazz. There's only one jazz. In French, however, one cannot drop the definitive article here.

    French: prendre l'air
    English: get some fresh air
    Portuguese: tomar (um) ar (fresco) - possible with an indefinite article, which makes it more forceful, but not mandatory
    In English, there is no specific air to be got.

    French: Monsieur le Président
    English: Mr. President
    Portuguese: o senhor presidente - article before senhor, but we usually just say o presidente, without senhor
    In English there is no need to specify this particular president when addressing him in person.

    French: la semaine prochaine
    English: next week
    Portuguese: (a) semana que vem/a próxima semana - with que vem, I have heard it both ways
    English is inconsistent here: next week, next summer, next year, but day after tomorrow, the day before yesterday.

    French: le samedi
    English: Saturday
    Portuguese: sábado

    French: les secrets de la bible
    English: Secrets of the Bible.
    Portuguese: os segredos da Bíblia - article before both nouns
    English here could go both ways "The Secrets" or just "Secrets" but some languages cannot have titles that omit the definitive article.

    French: le plan B
    English: plan B
    Portuguese: o plano B - with a definite article
    In English Plan B is already a specific thing.

    English shows some inconsistency.

    English: in darkness, in the dark
    Portuguese: no escuro/na escuridão - with a definite article
    Saying "I like sitting in dark" is wrong and "I like sitting in the darkness" sounds strange.

    Italian uses the definitive article even with determiners:
    il mio cane (the my dog)
    la mia famiglia (the my family)
    Portuguese: (o) meu cão/cachorro, (a) minha família - Articles are consistently used in Portugal here, but no so in Brazil, where it also depends on region, speaker and level of formality
     
    French: faire l'amour
    English: making love
    Greek: «Κάνω έρωτα» [ˈkano ˈeɾota] (no article)

    French: j'etudie l'economie
    English: I study economics
    Greek: «Σπουδάζω οικονομικά» [spuˈðazo ikonomiˈka] (no article)

    French: j'aime le jazz
    English: I like jazz
    Greek: «Αγαπώ την τζαζ» [aɣaˈpo tin ʣ͡az] (fem. definite article)

    French: prendre l'air
    English: get some fresh air
    Greek: «Παίρνω καθαρό αέρα» [ˈperno kaθaˈɾo aˈeɾa] (no article)

    French: Monsieur le Président
    English: Mr. President
    Greek: «Κύριε Πρόεδρε» [ˈciɾi.e ˈpro.eðre] (no article)

    French: la semaine prochaine
    English: next week
    Greek: «Την επόμενη εβδομάδα» [tin eˈpomeni evðoˈmaða] (fem. definite article)

    French: le samedi
    English: Saturday
    Greek: «Το Σάββατο» [to ˈsavato] (neut. definite article)

    French: les secrets de la bible
    English: Secrets of the Bible
    Greek: «Τα μυστικά της Βίβλου» (neut. def. article-fem. def. article)

    French: le plan B
    English: plan B
    Greek: «Το σχέδιο Β» [to ˈsçeði.o ˈvita] (neut. def. art.)

    Also:

    «Ο σκύλος μου» [o ˈscilos mu] --> the dog of-mine (masc. def. article)
    «Η οικογένειά μου» [i ikoˈʝeniˌa͜ mu] --> the family of-mine (fem. def. article)
    «Οι ταινίες του Χόλιγουντ» [i teˈni.es tu ˈxoliɣud] --> the films of Holywood (fem. def. article)
    but
    «Χορεύω ταγκό» [xoˈɾevo taŋˈgo] (no article) --> I dance tango (no article)
    «Παίζω κιθάρα» [ˈpezo ciˈθaɾa] --> I play guitar (no article)
     
    Last edited:

    arn00b

    Senior Member
    English
    In some cases Arabic has the definitive article twice, before the noun and the adjective.

    al-kitâb al-aswad (the-book the-black) - the black book

    Correct me if I'm wrong, but I believe that when used with a genitive (Edward's book) the definitive article is lost.

    Qara't al-kitâb (I-read the-book)
    Qara't kitâb Sami (I-read book Sami - I read Sami's book)

    I believe German does the same:

    Das Buch von Papa (the book of Dad)
    Papas Buch (Dad's book)

    If there are any Bulgarian/Macedonian speakers here, I'm curious to know how different/similar they are to the Greek usage. Are they influenced by Greek in any way in their use of the definitive article?
     
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