Frederick the Great was <the><a> patron of many artists.

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  • lingobingo

    Senior Member
    English - England
    Yes, they amount to much the same. But as always, the definite article is more specific:

    He was the patron of / He acted as patron to many artists
    = Many artists had him as their patron (or one of them)
    He was a patron of the arts, who sponsored many different artists.
     

    owlman5

    Senior Member
    English-US
    Does #1 imply that he is the only one patrons of these artists?
    It could definitely imply that, homotopy07. The patron of many artists does not invite the reader to speculate about the possible existence of other patrons in these artists' lives. A patron of many artists is less exclusive in its meaning. However, neither article is sufficient to suggest one interpretation or the other very clearly.
     
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    homotopy07

    Senior Member
    Japanese
    It could definitely imply that, homotopy07. The patron of many artists does not invite the reader to speculate about the possible existence of other patrons in these artists' lives. A patron of many artists is less exclusive in its meaning. However, neither article is sufficient to express one interpretation or the other very clearly.
    Thanks. :)

    If there's more than one patron, does the patron imply that he was their main patron?
     
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    lingobingo

    Senior Member
    English - England
    It would only really imply that he was someone’s sole patron if having only one patron was the norm at that time (which it may well have been) and/or if having him as your patron meant you didn’t need anyone else. In other words, I think any such implication has more to do with the context than with the choice of article.
     

    owlman5

    Senior Member
    English-US
    Yes. I used could to make it clear that the use of a patron doesn't necessarily imply that. That is one inference that a listener may make upon hearing the phrase. My point about the use of the articles is simple, homotopy07. They don't say anything definite about Frederick's patronage.
     

    owlman5

    Senior Member
    English-US
    It is. All I can tell from the sentence is that Frederick served as a patron for some artists. I have no way of knowing whether he was the only patron these artists had or whether they had other patrons.
     

    homotopy07

    Senior Member
    Japanese
    It is. All I can tell from the sentence is that Frederick served as a patron for some artists. I have no way of knowing whether he was the only patron these artists had or whether they had other patrons.
    Thanks, owlman. :)

    One of my grammar books gives the following explanation:
    ------------------------------------------------------------------------
    (1a) This is the house that Jack built.

    This sentence implies that ① This is the only house that Jack has built OR ② This is the only house that Jack has built among the houses that the speaker has in mind.

    (1b) This is a house that Jack built.

    This sentence implies that Jack has built more than one house.
    ------------------------------------------------------------------------

    Is this explanation correct?
     

    owlman5

    Senior Member
    English-US
    Is this explanation correct?
    Yes. That explanation looks fine to me. Try to remember, however, that the examples in grammar books are provided to support the points that the authors are trying to make.

    In real speech and writing, things aren't always as cut and dried as the examples you find in your grammar texts might lead you to believe. A historian could easily use either a patron of artists or the patron of artists without intending to say anything at all about the exclusivity of Frederick's patronage.
     
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    homotopy07

    Senior Member
    Japanese
    Thanks. :) We have been discussing "patron of unspecified multiple persons", but what about "patron of a specified single person"? For example,

    (4) Mr. Davis is the patron of artist Jack Baker.

    Does the imply that Davis is the sole patron of Jack?
     

    owlman5

    Senior Member
    English-US
    Does the imply that Davis is the sole patron of Jack?
    Without any further information about Mr. Davis and Jack Baker, I believe that it does imply an exclusive relationship. But that belief is based on nothing more than my speculation about the speaker's intent in using the rather than a. If I had any genuine interest in the people who might possibly support Jack's artistic endeavors, I would definitely need more than that article to form a solid opinion about the subject.
     

    homotopy07

    Senior Member
    Japanese
    Thanks, owlman. :) I'm still confused. :oops:
    (1) Frederick the Great was the patron of many artists.
    (2) Frederick the Great was a patron of many artists.
    If having only one patron was the norm, #1 may be better than #2. But if having more than one patron was the norm, in what sense is the more specific than a?
     

    owlman5

    Senior Member
    English-US
    But if having more than one patron was the norm, in what sense is the more specific than a?
    Once again, the doesn't suggest the existence of other patrons as strongly as a does. A patron of the arts is easy to interpret as one of a group of art patrons.

    I hate to see you tie yourself into knots in your efforts to establish firm rules that govern the meaning and use of articles. They reflect the speaker's momentary point of view regarding some noun, and the choices are sometimes random and arbitrary.

    This bothers many ESL students, but it is simply the truth. Good grammar texts can offer you reliable guidance in many of the different reasons for using one article or another, but those texts cannot eliminate all of the randomness and ambiguity involved in their use.
     
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    tunaafi

    Senior Member
    English - British (Southern England)
    I hate to see you tie yourself into knots in your efforts to establish firm rules that govern the meaning and use of articles. They reflect the speaker's momentary point of view regarding some noun, and the choices are sometimes random and arbitrary.

    This bothers many ESL students, but it is simply the truth. Good grammar texts can offer you reliable guidance in many of the different reasons for using one article or another, but those texts cannot eliminate all of the randomness and ambiguity involved in their use.
    :thumbsup: :thumbsup::thumbsup:

    Those words should appear automatically in every thread about the use of articles.
     
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