our general experience of the world

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VicNicSor

Banned
Russian
the
You use the in front of some nouns that refer to something in our general experience of the world.
It's always hard to speculate about the future...
Amy sat outside in the sun...
He lay in the darkness, pretending to sleep.

Collins Cobuild

Explain to me please what "our general experience of the world" has to do with these three examples. Because I thought that:
"The" sun - because we know about only one sun that has ever existed.
"The" darkness - because this darkness is that of a particular place where he lay.
"about the future" as I know it's just a set phrase.
Thank you.
 
  • owlman5

    Senior Member
    English-US
    Hello, Vik. The idea about "our general experience of the world" may be too vague or inconsistent to be useful in your study of the articles. I can think of many sentences that make some comment about my general experience yet don't need an article in front of some noun or noun phrase: Crime is expensive. Bad behavior often results in punishment.
     

    e2efour

    Senior Member
    UK English
    In our general experience of the world seems to be woffle (i.e. a pretty meaningless sort of phrase).
    If I were learning English, I would find it no guide to the use of the definite article.

    1) Future is (normally) an adjective. The future is a noun. But in prepositional phrases we don't always say the. For example, we say in future and in the future, often with no difference in meaning.
    2) The sun nearly always refers to the star in our planetary sytem. (It can sometimes mean (the) sunlight.)
    3) We can say in darkness or in the darkness. The latter is used when it has been mentioned previously. So if we begin a novel, we could write The city was bathed in darkness. If someone goes into a dark room, we could say The darkness of the room swallowed him up.
     

    Elwintee

    Senior Member
    England English
    As you can see, Vik, this is a particularly confusing point of grammar and you (as a Russian speaker spared the need for definite and indefinite articles) deserve our sympathy. You can Google 'Definite article [in] English' and get some helpful pointers, but I think the only answer is to read good English as much as possible in order to acquire the usage less painfully. I think it might help to think of the difference between abstract and concrete usage ('bad behaviour' is abstract, 'the bad behaviour' is concrete). I cannot explain why we say 'he sat in the sun all day and got burnt' instead of 'he sat in sun ...', but the latter just sounds daft to a native speaker. Sorry!
     

    VicNicSor

    Banned
    Russian
    Yes I understand that dictionaries' articles is not the best way to learn articles, they are just a overview; but, for all that...:)
    As to 'future'... I have known that one can say in future and in the future, but can one say "about future"? (as a noun)
     

    VicNicSor

    Banned
    Russian
    "About future" doesn't sound like English to me, Vik. I'd expect an article there: "about the future".
    But is there an explanation for this? Does every time when one say this phrase, s/he implies the future of a particular situation? Or is this really just a set phrase? Which future is implied?
     

    owlman5

    Senior Member
    English-US
    But is there an explanation for this? Does every time when one say this phrase, s/he implies the future of a particular situation? Or is this really just a set phrase? Which future is implied?
    That's a good question, Vik. If I were you, I think I'd consider it a "set phrase". If there is no explicit reference to a particular future in a sentence like "I'm worried about the future", then it probably means something like "the future that I am/people are facing".

    People can and do use the adjective "future" without an article, but when they use "future" as a noun, they always use some determiner or adjective: (future as an adjective) I'm worried about future earnings. (future as a noun) I'm worried about the future. (future as the noun in a noun phrase) I'm worried about a possible future in which diseases have evolved beyond our ability to treat or control them. (future used with a possessive adjective) I'm worried about her future.
     
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    VicNicSor

    Banned
    Russian
    = things with which we are all familiar.
    Hmmm... Sounds a bit indistinct to me. For example, the next definition in the list:
    You use the in front of nouns that refer to people, things, services, or institutions that are associated with everyday life. The doctor's on his way... Who was that on the phone?... You're old enough to travel on the train by yourself... They have a generator when the electricity fails... Four executive journalists were detained for questioning by the police today... He took a can of beer from the fridge.
    I'd say all these things one can call those ones "we are all familiar with".:confused:
     

    PaulQ

    Senior Member
    UK
    English - England
    Hmmm... Sounds a bit indistinct to me.
    :thumbsup: it is supposed to be "indistinct" (vague). Note how I bolded the words "some nouns." When people use a phrase like, "Some dogs are fierce" they mean equally, "Some dogs are not fierce." It says nothing about all dogs or dogs in certain contexts.
    I'd say all these things one can call those ones "we are all familiar with".
    Yes, that's right. You asked,
    Explain to me please what "our general experience of the world" has to do with these three examples.
    and I gave you an alternative to "our general experience of the world".

    Of course, the context has to support the speaker and listener's knowledge of "our general experience of the world." so, to a great extent the use is determined by shared culture/experiences. It is of little use my saying to you, "I'll meet you at the pub." You would have no idea which pub I meant but if I said it to my wife, she'd know.
     

    VicNicSor

    Banned
    Russian
    "I'll meet you at the pub."
    I think this is a different example, this is a countable noun. While 'sun', 'future' and 'darkness' are uncountable.
    Yours looks like the two examples from my comment #11:

    He took a can of beer from the fridge.
    The
    doctor's on his way
    . Right?
    It seems to me the examples in
    Collins' definitions are a bit mixed up:confused:.
     
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