Love is a feeling of/the feeling of

Henares

Senior Member
Polish
Hi,

my question concerns articles - my native language doesn’t include anything like this, so I find them one of the most difficult ( and fascinating) aspect of English. Sometimes it seems to me that I understand the usage of them, but then I come across an example that doesn’t fit the rules I know ( or the rules I think I know, or maybe there are no rules?)

Here we have two definition of ‘love’:

1. ‘An intense feeling of deep affection’ (Oxford Dictionary)

2. ‘The feeling of liking another adult very much and being romantically and sexually attracted to them, or strong feelings of liking a friend or person in your family’ (Cambridge Dictionary)


In the first example ‘love’ is definie as ‘a feeling of’, but in the second as ‘the feeling of’.

My question is: what makes these two definition different that in the first one ‘feeling’ is indefinite and in the second is definite.

It may be a nuance apparent for the native speaker, but I don’t understand it.

Could you explain to me this seeming inconsistence?
 
  • PaulQ

    Senior Member
    UK
    English - England
    ‘An intense feeling of deep affection’ (Oxford Dictionary) -> An = an example of /a type of intense feeling of deep affection’.

    The feeling of liking another adult -> The is used because the noun "feeling" is defined by "of liking another adult" - "feeling" is therefore specific/specified and, hence, "the".

    The is a demonstrative adjective that is, historically and linguistically, related to "that". (You can often substitute "that" for "the".)
     

    Henares

    Senior Member
    Polish
    I' ve been thinking about what you've written and I have a few more questions:
    1. Is it sometimes a matter of convention which way of defining I choose?
    2. Would it be correct to write: "Love is the feeling of deep afection? Would, in that case, "feeling" be specified by "of deep afection"?
     

    Alexey86

    New Member
    Would, in that case, "feeling" be specified by "of deep afection"?
    I have the same question. Sometimes it's hard to distinguish whether we're dealing with a proper definition or a descriptive one. As I see it, in the case of "An intense feeling of deep affection" the of-part seems to function as a description (compare it to "Our product is of a high standard"). The second example, "...of liking another adult very much...", though being technically descriptive, functions as a proper definition because it clearly outlines the concept of love.
     

    PaulQ

    Senior Member
    UK
    English - England
    Sometimes it's hard to distinguish whether we're dealing with a proper definition or a descriptive one.
    It is not important - when I used "define", it was in the sense of separating the individual noun from other similar nouns by a description or indication.

    - [looking out of the window] A cat is scratching the door..."
    - Which one?
    - A black cat [-> as you will see, this has the meaning of "an example of a black cat" - it is not precise.]
    - There are three black cats - which one?
    - The black cat with the missing ear. [-> The cat in question has been specified/defined.]
    -
    Oh, that is Thomas - let him in.

    However, it is also essential when using "the" that
    (i) the speaker and listener are aware of the <noun>.

    - [looking out of the window] A cat is scratching the door..."
    - Which one?
    - The black cat [with the missing ear.] - This is turns out to be an incorrect use.
    - What do you mean by "The black cat with the missing ear"? Do you know the cat? I don't..." -? The speaker might know the cat, but the listener does not - in these circumstances, the listener expects "A black cat"

    or (ii) that the listener will soon become aware of the <noun>.

    - The cat that I am about to tell you of belonged to my aunt.

    In short "the noun" = "<noun> that we are aware of."

     

    Alexey86

    New Member
    Thank you. Your example provides clear contexts for choosing the or a. But the definitions above aren't placed in extended contexts.

    An = an example of /a type of intense feeling of deep affection’
    There are many types of feelings and definitions of love. An intense feeling of deep affection is one of them. Another one is a feeling of liking another adult very much. If so, it's not clear to me why Cambridge Dictionary puts the in its definition.
     

    Alexey86

    New Member
    PaulQ said:
    Yes. The prepositional phrase has defined the feeling.
    I'm a bit confused. Why does omitting "intense" from the definition make feelling specified? I thought both "a feeling of deep affection" and "an intense feeling of deep affection" were types of feelings. Say, I ask someone, "Could you describe your feeling to her?" and get the answer, "Oh, it's a feeling of deep affection/an intense feeling of deep affection". And then I reply, "You seem to have fallen in love."
     
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    Henares

    Senior Member
    Polish
    I don’t think including or excluding the word ‘intense’ is relevant here. Maybe it’s grammatically correct to write “Love is the feeling of deep afection”, but since it’s not a very precise definition, ‘a’ is a more natural choice?
     
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    PaulQ

    Senior Member
    UK
    English - England
    I'm a bit confused. Why does omitting "intense" from the definition make feelling specified?
    It doesn't - the adjective is broadly irrelevant to the choice of determiner. The determiner is used because the noun is specified/described/indicated, etc., it does not work if you simply add "the": a noun of which you are aware = the <noun>.

    A has been chosen for a purpose... see below:

    A feeling -> what sort of feeling? -> The feeling of joy -> of joy (adjectival adjunct) defines that feeling.
    Maybe it’s grammatically correct to write “Love is the feeling of deep affection”, but since it’s not a very precise definition, ‘a’ is a more natural choice?
    To be honest, I don't like either of the definitions very much, but that is probably because nobody has succeeded in defining emotional concepts to the average person's satisfaction.

    Oxford: An intense feeling of deep affection = an example of intensely deep affection. So "love" would be one example within all the possible feelings of deep affection. I suppose that works as a definition.

    Cambridge: The feeling of liking another adult very much and [etc]. -> the writer is saying "That particular feeling... etc."

    Oxford takes a broader view than Cambridge: Oxford does not attempt to focus with any precision; Cambridge does, but I do not think the definition is any better - it is probably worse.
     

    Alexey86

    New Member
    Excuse me for my dullness, but I still don't get it.

    PaulQ said:
    A feeling -> what sort of feeling? -> The feeling of joy -> of joy (adjectival adjunct) defines that feeling.
    A feeling -> ? -> An intense feeling of joy

    What question might be put in the middle?

    PaulQ said:
    Oxford: An intense feeling of deep affection = an example of intensely deep affection. So "love" would be one example within all the possible feelings of deep affection. I suppose that works as a definition.

    Cambridge: The feeling of liking another adult very much and [etc]. -> the writer is saying "That particular feeling... etc."
    Is the following variant possible:

    The intense feeling of deep affection = that particular example of intensely deep affection. So "love" would be that particular and unique example within all the possible feelings of deep affection.
     
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    Henares

    Senior Member
    Polish
    @Alexey86 Since we are both native speakers of Slavic languages we have similar problems with English articles. I understand it this way:
    1. An intense feeling of deep affection - it’s not a precise definition of ‘love’; there are undoubtedly other feelings of deep affection, hence ‘a’
    2. The feeling of liking another adult very much and [etc]. - one could consider it an exhaustive definition of ‘love’ and thinks he grasps what ‘love’ truly is, hence ‘the’. Of course others may don’t think so, like PaulQ, who thinks it’s not a good definition.
     

    Alexey86

    New Member
    So, we are back to the definition/description difference. "An intense feeling..." is a broad description, while "The feeling of liking..." is a way more precise descriptive definition. And this precision determines the definite article.
     
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