on a/the national level

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VicNicSor

Banned
Russian
— All right, now, when are you boys gonna invite me down to Louisiana? Hmm?
— We'd certainly love to have you. Still a lot of work to be done. I mean, you've done a great job whipping up this chapter, but...
— Well, I could do a great job on a national level.

BlacKkKlansman, film

Doesn't it sound like there's more than one national level?, which is weird:confused:
Thank you.
 
  • L'irlandais

    Senior Member
    Ireland: English-speaking ♂
    The usage « a national level » is correct. Why? Because national is an adjective here. The indefinite article relates to the abstract noun, level. As the other poster points out, there is more than one level. A national level is a concept. This online thesis goes into some depth on the matter. (As I notice your English is quite advanced, so your question cannot be taken at a very basic level.)
    ...(Page 55)
    Consequently, Russian learners overuse the definite article in zero and indefinite contexts because they seem to be confused by the fact that abstract nouns are concepts and not objects.
    Source: https://www.duo.uio.no/bitstream/handle/10852/25252/Thesis.pdf?sequence=1&isAllowed=y
    Thinking of what have been done before in research on article acquisition by Russian learners I would say that my main finding is that Russian learners still have trouble using articles with abstract and nonreferential nouns at advance level of proficiency and that they tend to associate the definite article with.
    To answer your question it doesn’t sound weird to my (native-speaker) ear. So perhaps you need to review the use of the indefinite article.
     
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    VicNicSor

    Banned
    Russian
    If we look at Ngram results of "national level" used with and without articles, and with the prepositions at and on, we see that with "the" it's still more common, so I wouldn't say it was my Russinness that made me want to use "the" here.
    I think one can make a case for all three articles (including zero), it's just with "the" it seems most logical to me. Indeed, when you say "I have a nice book.", you use "a" because it's one of many nice books, not because there are other books apart from nice ones:)
    Google Ngram Viewer

    Google Ngram Viewer
     

    L'irlandais

    Senior Member
    Ireland: English-speaking ♂
    If we look at Ngram results of "national level" used with and without articles, and with the prepositions at and on, we see that with "the" it's still more common, so I wouldn't say it was my Russinness that made me want to use "the" here.
    I think one can make a case for all three articles (including zero), it's just with "the" it seems most logical to me. Indeed, when you say "I have a nice book.", you use "a" because it's one of many nice books, not because there are other books apart from nice ones:)
    Google Ngram Viewer

    Google Ngram Viewer
    Nope. We use the indefinite article in your original example (context is important, google searches not so much) because it is grammatically correct; not because of some personal preference, or other, of mine. A book, is hors sujet. Since it is a concrete, countable noun, unlike your original example. One can touch a book, but not a concept. I believe this is the fundamental difference.

    You asked. I answered. Yet, you are still not convinced. The cows have come home here, I am bowing out of the discussion.
     
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    VicNicSor

    Banned
    Russian
    We use the indefinite article in your original example (context is important, google searches not so much) because it is grammatically correct; not because of some personal preference, or other, of mine.
    The context of the below example is practically identical to the OP example:
    If we take these results at face value, most Americans seem to think that the public school system isn’t doing that great a job on the national level, but the schools in their community are good.
    America's Perceptions of the Nation's Public Schools: Are We More Pessimistic Than We Should Be?

    But it uses "the". Is there any difference that makes "the" correct here while "a" there?
     

    L'irlandais

    Senior Member
    Ireland: English-speaking ♂
    Slightly different context, I’m afraid. Context is everything. But you don’t have to believe me, if you don’t want to. When a native speaker of French or German tells me something about a finer point of their respective languages, I take note.
     
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    VicNicSor

    Banned
    Russian
    But the point is not just taking a native speaker's word for it, but understanding the point by myself.

    You said "slightly different context". And I don't know how it is different regarding using articles.
    In both cases it's the local level (Colorado Springs/local communities) as opposed to the national level (the US).
     
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    Glasguensis

    Signal Modulation
    English - Scotland
    It would not be wrong or unidiomatic to use either article choice in both examples. I have a preference for a in the OP and for the in your new example, which coincides with the original speakers and also with the other answers above.
    Every time you ask one of these questions you want to know why : when I read the first example various neurons activate such that my choice is for a. When I read the second example various neurons (probably partially overlapping with the first set) activate such that my choice is for the. I am unaware what specific and unrelated events created the neural paths in my brain which caused me to make these choices, but they are certainly the reflection of the choices previously made by other native speakers I have listened to or read, and these choices were in turn shaped by earlier native speakers, etc. We can only really propose a logical explanation when the distinction between the two is blatant, which is not the case here. If you want to have the ability to choose on your own and make the same choices as us the only solution is to learn the way we did: by reading and listening to millions of sentences
     

    VicNicSor

    Banned
    Russian
    This neurons theory is great, but I've always been sure there's nothing that couldn't be explained:)

    "Well, I could do a great job on a national level."

    The speaker doesn't particularly refer to the national level of the US. He would, however, if he had used "the" (and that would be correct too). He's using "national level", as a concept (as was mentioned above). Any country has a national level.

    In the example in #8 though, it's particularly the national level of the US, and I even think that "a" would be wrong there because the context there is not so flexible as in the OP.

    Does it make sense?
     
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    Glasguensis

    Signal Modulation
    English - Scotland
    There is indeed an explanation - the question is how difficult it is to find it. For example, let’s say I see some graffiti which has been painted with red and yellow aerosols. There is no doubt a reason for this, which may be artistic, symbolic or simply logistical. Whilst it may be possible for me to investigate and establish the reason, it’s highly unlikely that I will decide that this is a worthwhile use of my time.
    Your hypothesis is plausible, but can only be validated by generating and testing a number of similar but slightly different sentences. And since those of us who have already answered will now tend to react in an unnatural way to any new examples (based on what I’ve seen on many past threads), many dozens of new native speakers will be required to perform selections on different sets of examples in order to see whether their choices align with your hypothesis or not. If you want to perform such an experiment, go ahead (but not on this forum).
     

    VicNicSor

    Banned
    Russian
    If you want to perform such an experiment, go ahead (but not on this forum).
    Sorry Glas you're just over-complicating things. I didn't request anything impossible here. This is just articles, no rocket science. Just look at all those threads with numerous pages. Mine here only has a dozen answers.

    Thank you all.
     

    L'irlandais

    Senior Member
    Ireland: English-speaking ♂
    It is NOT Glasguensis who is over complicating the issue. You are turning indefinite articles into rocket science in your head. Your #14 I cannot agree with. A National Level takes an « a » because it is an abstract noun, no further reasoning is necessary; nothing to do with « any » country can have a National level. You are mixing things up with concrete countable nouns, like book in your earlier (second) example. The original example in your OP is so obviously and naturally correct for a Native speaker, that you must ask yourself what is it that you don’t get about the use of the indefinite article in that particular example. If you genuinely wish to learn English, then you must take a Native speaker’s word for it. It’s rude not too, to be honest.
    Perhaps folks have stopped contributing to your discussions, as they always contain a gotcha, at some point.
     
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    VicNicSor

    Banned
    Russian
    Your #14 I cannot agree with. A National Level takes an « a » because it is an abstract noun, no further reasoning is necessary; nothing to do with « any » country can have a National level. You are mixing things up with concrete countable nouns, like book in your earlier (second) example.
    What does it matter, as far as articles are concerned, if it's a concrete or abstract noun?:confused: They both can be countable or uncountable, singular or plural.
    And in both examples (the OP and in #8) "levels" are abstract, but take different articles.

    If "national level" takes "a" simply because it is an "abstract noun", why does it take "the" in the other example?

    The original example in your OP is so obviously and naturally correct for a Native speaker, that you must ask yourself what is it that you don’t get about the use of the indefinite article in that particular example. If you genuinely wish to learn English, then you must take a Native speaker’s word for it. It’s rude not too, to be honest.
    I.e. if a native speaker says it's correct because it feels that way to me, I must have no more questions, and if I do, it's rude? I disagree.
     

    Myridon

    Senior Member
    English - US
    Sorry Glas you're just over-complicating things. I didn't request anything impossible here. This is just articles, no rocket science. Just look at all those threads with numerous pages. Mine here only has a dozen answers.
    We've been answering your daily and weekly questions on articles for six and a half years. You have literally thousands of answers on questions that are more or less similar to this one.
     

    VicNicSor

    Banned
    Russian
    We've been answering your daily and weekly questions on articles for six and a half years. You have literally thousands of answers on questions that are more or less similar to this one.
    But what's the point? What I said was it's not rocket scienece for a native speaker.
     

    Myridon

    Senior Member
    English - US
    And as you've been told many times, native speakers do not learn to use articles through rules so we cannot produce these rules that never existed.
     

    Andygc

    Senior Member
    British English
    A new voice.

    Post 1. An abstract concept - a national level as opposed to a regional level or a local level.
    Post 8. The context is the American school system. It's the national level because it is specifically referring to America.

    But, of course, my article selection is entirely automatic without a moment's thought. Those neurones just firing away as usual.

    cross-posted. Chocolate please.
     

    DonnyB

    Sixties Mod
    English UK Southern Standard English
    Please remember that in our forum we try and answer specific questions such as the one arising from the dialogue extract in the question. We don't, and can't, go into detailed discussions on how or why native speakers choose to use the language in the way that they do.

    I'm now closing this thread: thanks to everyone for their contributions, which I hope Vic has found useful. DonnyB - moderator.
     
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