Sleep with the angels / sleep with angels

Discussion in 'Spanish-English Grammar / Gramática Español-Inglés' started by gothicpartner, Jun 6, 2009.

  1. gothicpartner

    gothicpartner Senior Member

    Hello all

    Could you explain why you say "sleep with the angels" rather than " sleep with angels"?

    I think you sleep with "unespecific angels" at/every night in your dreams, and on talking about unspecific something one does not use "the", but I could be wrong

    Thanks in advance
    Last edited: Jun 7, 2009
  2. gcs118 Member

    English - USA
    The only potential explanation I can think of is that "sleep with the angels" can refer to all the angels, whereas "sleep with angels" would only be a select few.
  3. Tazzler Senior Member

    American English
    Although I'm not sure about the context of this phrase, I would say that gcs118's explanation is right: the angels represents heaven or something like that. Again context is important. Could you give us some context to work with?
  4. gothicpartner

    gothicpartner Senior Member


    The context is the statement that some say to children when they go to bed to go to sleep.

    Maybe " sleep with the angels" is a set phrase or idiom.
    Could I say " sleep with angels" in some xcontext?

    I was taught the following.
    We use the to talk about something specific, example: something which we mention for a second time or which is already known
    We use the with unique nouns: The Moon, The Earth, etc
  5. gcs118 Member

    English - USA
    It is certainly an idiom/saying. As for the use of the word "the" my original explanation is still the only other possibility that I can think of.
  6. Zoob Member

    Arkansas, US
    English - US
    I have not heard this saying in english, however I have heard in spanish: "Que sueñes con los angelitos." It is more common to hear (among my family, anyway) "Sweet dreams" when a child is going to bed.
    "Sleep with ____" sounds like you're telling someone to have sex with whatever follows, though I might not get that impression in the case of angels.
  7. PoochNYC New Member

    English, Italian, German
    OK. I agree with Zoob. I have never heard any English speaker use this expression unless they have European (or Latin American) roots. I've heard it in my native Italian as well as Spanish and Portuguese. It is a rather sweet expression. Remember, we, unlike English speakers, use "the" in one form or another before nouns. Therefore, when speaking Engish, it is common to sometimes continue to do this. Sort of when kids would get a kick out of when I when I would remind them to "Wash their teeth;" this is how we said it in Italian (as did my French friends) and we just directy translate it. Aside from all that, without the "the," you are referreing to nondescript angels. The Old Religions (Catholic, Orthodox, etc) believe in unique angels (Michael, Raphael, Gabriel) as well as the different ranks (Cherubim, Seruphim, Powers, Domininios, Arcangels, etc)--and, of course, your Guardian Angel :). Therefore, just to say "angels" woud turn them into a more generic group of winged thingies. Of course, the second explanation is perhaps more speculation. I would simpy say that "the" is a carry over from the origina European phrase. But it does sound better with the "the." don't you think? And let's all sleep with *the* angels tonight :)
    Last edited: Mar 11, 2013
  8. RicardoElAbogado Senior Member

    SF Bay Area, California
    American English
    And "sleep with the fishes" has an entirely different connotation (thanks to The Godfather).
  9. katydyd5 New Member

    I always assumed it meant the same thing as "sleeping with the fishes", a death threat of sorts (to me, logically, it makes the most sense). I have since learned some people/cultures think it sounds sweet and it is a normal part of the bedtime ritual; I still think it sounds ominous and creepy. Gives me a visual of someone coming back to murder me in my sleep. "Sweet Dreams" works for me...

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