Teaching new words to your toddler

Andy Chateau

New Member
Finnish
Just started wondering one day when I was reading a book with my 15-month-old daughter that what is the most natural way for Americans and the British to ask a child to point a certain thing on a book page? For example, you open up a book and see there are a cow, goose, pig and horse on the book page.

Are these all natural ways:

1. Where can you find a cow? (Fin. Mistä löytyy lehmä?)
2. Where is a cow? (Fin. Missä on lehmä?)
3. Where is the cow? (Fin. Missä on lehmä?)

(After the question the child is supposed to be pointing at the correct animal.)

Why I'm asking this is because in Finnish you don't have to think about the articles. How do you see this?
 
  • serbianfan

    Senior Member
    British English
    I would say 'Where can you see a cow?' for most pictures, and only use 'find' if there were lots of different animals and objects in the picture. We also tend to say 'Where's the cow?', not 'Where is a cow?', even though this may seem to contradict the rule that we use 'the' when we've already mentioned the noun, e.g. 'John has a cow. The cow is brown'.

    Anteeksi, minä puhun vain vähän suomea :)
     

    Andy Chateau

    New Member
    Finnish
    Thanks for the answer!

    But doesn't it sound a bit strange to say first "Where's the cow?" and then after that "What does a cow say?" Probably in this case you would ask the child "What does the cow say?", right?

    The reason why I'm asking this is that in many children's songs I see both forms being used "a/the".

    E.g. What does a/the cow say?
     

    serbianfan

    Senior Member
    British English
    There's really no difference in meaning: 'The cow is a big animal' means the same as 'A cow is a big animal'. It's a special use of 'the'.

    But you should post questions about English in the 'English only' forum, not here. There you will get replies very quickly, and different replies, so sometimes different opinions on what you ask about.
     

    Andy Chateau

    New Member
    Finnish
    Yes, that special use of "the" was actually one of the things I was also after here. So what you're saying is that when you're talking about something in general, sometimes it doesn't really matter if you use "a" or "the"?

    This was intentionally posted here, because I thought that a person who speaks both languages would understand the reason why I'm asking this.

    By the way, I think this would probably make the variant 2 a little bit better:

    "Where is there a cow?"
     

    Grumpy Old Man

    Senior Member
    Yes, that special use of "the" was actually one of the things I was also after here. So what you're saying is that when you're talking about something in general, sometimes it doesn't really matter if you use "a" or "the"?
    This is what is called "generic use" of the article. When an entire group or class is intended, either article is often possible:

    A/The cheetah is a fast animal. = All cheetas are fast animals.
    A/The mouse can't fly.


    GOM
     
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