Leaves started to fall off the trees

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HenryTsang

Member
China-Mandarin
Hi everyone,

In this sentence:

The fall came. Leaves started to fall off the trees.

Zero article before "leaves" and the definite article before "trees". What is the logic?

My teacher explained it thusly:

Leaves (no article) = some leaves/no particular or definite leaves in mind.
The trees (definite article) = the author had a certain group of trees in mind -> either all trees in the area or the trees on which the fallen leaves grew.

Is this a correct understanding?

Thank you.

Henry

P.S. And is it correct to say: Leaves started to fall off trees.
?
 
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  • vincix

    Senior Member
    Romanian
    The explanation regarding the article of "leaves" I think is accurate, but I think that the article before "trees" is necessary anyway, without referring to particular trees. I'd compare it to going to the theatre. The article is necessary here, whether you're referring to a specific theatre building or not.
     

    Copyright

    Senior Member
    American English
    On a related subject, I like "Leaves started to fall from the trees" – "off the trees" suggests to me that they were balanced up there.

    Whatever the grammatical explanation, I agree with no article for "leaves" and "the trees," although if someone wrote "the leaves," I wouldn't worry about it.
     

    VicNicSor

    Banned
    Russian
    I'd compare it to going to the theatre.
    "Going to the theatre/cinema" etc, is a special case, it denotes an activity. Or you can use "a" if you mean just a building. In the OP sentence "tree" is similar to the latter -- it's just a noun, isn't it?
    The fall came. Leaves started to fall from trees. -- just a general statement, perfectly grammatical, do you agree?
     

    Copyright

    Senior Member
    American English
    Grammatical but too general for most contexts. Generally, "the trees" will refer to trees in a particular area, not all over the world.
     

    VicNicSor

    Banned
    Russian
    Grammatical but too general for most contexts. Generally, "the trees" will refer to trees in a particular area, not all over the world.
    Like, to kids -- November is the time when leaves fall from trees.:)

    edit: a typo -- "when" was inserted
     
    Last edited:

    Copyright

    Senior Member
    American English
    Never too early to use good phrasing with a child. Stick with the trees. :) It even has a better rhythm in your sentence.
     

    Copyright

    Senior Member
    American English
    I don't think when we say "Fall came. Leaves started to fall from the trees" that we're concerned with that level of botanical detail.

    It's all about context and the phrasing of these two sentences is lyrical, not scientific.
     

    sdgraham

    Senior Member
    USA English
    Yes, and usually the question that follows is why you say it that way:D
    There are things we say a certain way just because we do. That's called "idiomatic usage."

    Not every usage is logical or subject to some "rule." Those who cannot accept that fact and search for rules, rather than learning a language idiomatically, are doomed to a lifetime of frustration.:)

    WordReference Random House Learner's Dictionary of American English © 2015
    id•i•o•mat•ic /ˌɪdiəˈmætɪk/ adj.
    1. that sounds natural and correct to a native speaker of a language:
     

    velisarius

    Senior Member
    British English (Sussex)
    Fall came. Leaves started to fall from the trees.
    (Some of the) leaves started to fall - it's a gradual process.
    Compare with: "Fall came. The leaves fell from the trees." The process is complete - all the leaves have fallen.
     

    VicNicSor

    Banned
    Russian
    There are things we say a certain way just because we do. That's called "idiomatic usage."

    Not every usage is logical or subject to some "rule." Those who cannot accept that fact and search for rules, rather than learning a language idiomatically, are doomed to a lifetime of frustration.:)
    Who tells about 'rules'?:) There are cases where you say it that way and we want to distinguish it from other cases -- whether it's about a set expression or some logic. But "the trees" itself is not an idiomatic phrase to remember...:)
    Fall came. Leaves started to fall from the trees.
    (Some of the) leaves started to fall - it's a gradual process.
    By the way, then is it possible to apply the same logic to "trees" -- "some of the", and drop the article?
     

    Myridon

    Senior Member
    English - US
    Who tells about 'rules'?:)
    Native speakers can speak the language before they even understand the concept of "rules." We learn it by example, not by applying rules. The language exists by itself. The "rules" are artificial constructs built to try to explain something that already exists.
     

    Andygc

    Senior Member
    British English
    I have no problem at all with "Leaves started to fall from trees." I wouldn't write "The fall came", because I'd write "Autumn came ..." :)
    Surely a definition of "the fall" is "the season when leaves fall from trees"?

    Of course, I also have no problem with "Leaves started to fall from the trees."
     

    Myridon

    Senior Member
    English - US
    Yes, this is mainly because a child's brain (the first years of their life) differs from an adult's/teen's one very much:)
    You could learn a new language by immersion as well. Cavemen learned other cavemen languages without knowing there was such a thing as "grammar." You would probably actually have an easier time if you stopped worrying so much about rules and just accepted the usage as you find it.
     

    Kirusha

    Senior Member
    Stick with the trees. :) It even has a better rhythm in your sentence.
    And rules don't have to be formulated at the level of syntax or semantics. Some linguists are exploring the notion that the use of articles is also governed by prosody. (Yes, there are some individuals out there who believe that natural languages are fully formalizable. The rub is nobody quite knows how).

    Sorry I can't be more specific at this point. I'm not that well conversant with the details.
     

    VicNicSor

    Banned
    Russian
    Thank you everyone.

    You would probably actually have an easier time if you stopped worrying so much about rules and just accepted the usage as you find it.
    Never on this forum have I asked for "rules" about anything:) (I've seen other sometimes do).
    "Accept" and "understand":thumbsup:
     

    PaulQ

    Senior Member
    UK
    English - England
    The fall came. Leaves started to fall off the trees.
    Leaves is the plural of "a leaf" - a signifies the generality of the noun. Leaves = leaves in general. This is what your teacher has said.

    In this case of "...the trees." here, the is a demonstrative adjective similar to that. The = "those of which we are all aware." This use of "the" can be found in "the Eiffel Tower" "the Kremlin" "the traffic", "the weather" etc.
     

    VicNicSor

    Banned
    Russian
    You are asking for a rule in this thread.
    No. I asked for an explanation. This is the difference. A lot of books explain how to use articles. If someone asks: "Why is in the sentence I saw a man. The man wore a hat 'man' used with THE?" You can say that's how we say it. Or explain it.:)
     
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