the/a simple expedient of

VicNicSor

Banned
Russian
expedient
a quick and effective way of dealing with a problem:
Moore escaped by the simple expedient of lying down in a clump of grass.
Longman dictionary

I believe "a" would work here as well. Am I right?
Thanks.
 
  • PaulQ

    Banned
    UK
    English - England
    No.
    (i) "the simple expedient" is almost a set phrase.
    (ii) Google Ngram shows that the is about 20 times more popular than a
    (iii) the simple expedient is defined by "lying down in a clump of grass." and thus is specific and something of which we are all now aware.
    (iv) Why would you want to change it?
     

    VicNicSor

    Banned
    Russian
    (iii) the simple expedient is defined by "lying down in a clump of grass." and thus is specific and something of which we are all now aware.
    As I understand, EB means that "a cunning trick of lying down in a clump of grass" would work.
    I see it as a modifier, not a "definer": a lying-down-in-a-clump-of-grass trick. Compare: the bottom of the page = a page bottom.:cross:
     

    PaulQ

    Banned
    UK
    English - England
    No. Nobody would say, by the simple expedient of digital profiteering, the cost of printing was just gradually shifted to individuals. -> I don't think many people would think that "digital engineering" has many "simple expedients"...

    VNS - What are you trying to understand with your original question?
     

    VicNicSor

    Banned
    Russian
    First, I was told that "the simple expedient of" is an idiom (and yes, even in the Longman example this part is underlined as usually idioms are in that dictionary), so I don't mean "by the simple expedient of digital profiteering", I'm talking about "a cunning trick".
    Second, do you mean to say that "a cunning trick of digital profiteering" means that "digital engineering" has many "cunning tricks"?
     

    PaulQ

    Banned
    UK
    English - England
    First, I was told that "the simple expedient of" is an idiom
    Yes, I mentioned something similar...
    I'm talking about "a cunning trick".
    Would that be a new question that would require a new post? :)
    Second, do you mean to say that "a cunning trick of digital profiteering" means that "digital engineering" has many "cunning tricks"?
    To me there would be many cunning tricks in digital engineering - it is certainly a good collocation.
     

    VicNicSor

    Banned
    Russian
    Would that be a new question that would require a new post? :)
    No. In the context of the original phrase, "cunning trick" and "simple expedient" are practically the same. ))
    To me there would be many cunning tricks in digital engineering - it is certainly a good collocation.
    Wait... how did the word "engineering" turn up here? We were talking about "digital profiteering":D
    These two have the same pattern, do you agree?
    a cunning trick of digital profiteering
    a cunning trick of lying down in a clump of grass
     

    PaulQ

    Banned
    UK
    English - England
    Please VNS! The pattern has nothing to do with it at all - ETB was simply giving a similar idiom/set phrase. He was not saying both are identical.

    I will repeat: "VNS - What are you trying to understand with your original question?"
     

    VicNicSor

    Banned
    Russian
    I'm trying to understand using articles, as usual.
    The question is simple: you said that "lying down in a clump of grass" defines "the simple expedient". I replaced "the simple expedient" with "a cunning trick".
    So, now, is "Moore escaped by a cunning trick of lying down in a clump of grass." possible?
    If yes, then "lying down in a clump of grass" doesn't define the previous phrase.
    If not, how does a cunning trick of lying down in a clump of grass differ from a cunning trick of digital profiteering?
     

    PaulQ

    Banned
    UK
    English - England
    So, now, is "Moore escaped by a cunning trick of lying down in a clump of grass." possible? -> No.

    If not, how does a cunning trick of lying down in a clump of grass differ from a cunning trick of digital profiteering?-> the second is one of many cunning tricks; in the first please re-read my post #3.

    VNS said:
    I'm trying to understand using articles, as usual.
    I hope you are writing all this down in your thesis - When is your PhD awarded? :)
     

    PaulQ

    Banned
    UK
    English - England
    No it' not, it's "one" - "a single"


    The = the specific; the one we are/were talking about; the one we know; the one we own or are holding or are near; the <noun> as a group or family or species.

    As the is a demonstrative adjective and is related to this and that, you may be able to substitute this or that <noun>, if you can, the will be correct.

    A(n) = one from amongst many; any; the noun as an example of all others; one; a single one.

    No article (ø) + singular noun = (Usually preceded by ‘of’) the noun as an example of all others/ of a species/of a category; uncountable nouns.

    No article (ø) + plural noun = all plural uses of the singular; the noun in general terms; all <nouns>

    Consider:

    A: “We must open the door but we need a key.”

    B: “Here is a key!”

    A: [puts the key in lock – it does not work.] “This is useless; we need the key not a key!”

    B: “There are ø keys in the office.”

    A: “The keys in the office are for the garage, not for the door!”

    B: “Who invented the key?”

    A: “The man who invented the lock! Now go and find the right key!”

    [B goes and returns with a very big key]

    B: “I got this from the cabinet.”

    A: “What is that?! It is huge! The key is so big that could be the key to The Tower of London!”

    B: “Well it was made by William Shakespeare!”

    A: “What?! The William Shakespeare?”

    B: “No, not the William Shakespeare, a William Shakespeare. You know him, he’s the man who owns the locksmith’s shop... that’s his name. His parents were actors.”

    A: “Now go and get the right key!”

    B: “There are two types of ø key in the cabinet, brass ones and steel ones.”

    A: “The lock is brass, so I think it will be a brass key.”

    B: [pauses for thought] “Ø Honesty. That’s what locksmiths need, ø honesty. They could make two keys, one for your house and a copy for themselves.”

    A: “Well, they need a type of honesty; an honesty where they are not thieves. They don’t need the honesty of a judge; I’m not bothered if ø locksmiths cheat on their taxes. Now go and get that key.”

    B: “We could knock the door down; the room is not a Fort Knox.”

    - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -



    A: “We must open the door […].” – Here we say the door because it is a specific door – it is the door that A is speaking about.

    A: “[…] but we need a key.” – Here, A means “a key [one key from amongst many keys] that fits the lock [the specific lock on the specific door] but he does not add, “that fits the lock” because he thinks it is obvious.

    B: “Here is a key!” – B has found a key. By saying “a key!” he is indicating that it is simply a key; any key. It may not be the specific key for the door, it is one random key from amongst many keys in the world. (He hopes it will be the key.)

    A: “This is useless, we need the key not a key!” = we need the key [the specific key for the specific door] not a key [one random key from amongst many keys]!”

    B: “There are ø keys in the office.” – “ø keys”, as the plural form of “a key”, has no article. B is saying, “There are keys [from amongst all the keys in the world] in the office [the office which we know about.]

    A: “The keys in the office are for the garage, not for the door!” - “The keys [that you are talking about] in the office [that we both know] are for the garage [that we know about], not for the door [that we are talking about.]”

    B: “Who invented the key?”

    A: “The man who invented the lock!” - In both instance, the key/the lock refer to the concept of keys/locks. It is not a particular key/lock but all kinds of/ species of/ categories of.

    A: “[…]the key to The Tower of London! – a specific key to a place with “The” in its title – “The Tower of London” is a proper noun (phrase).

    B: “No, not the William Shakespeare, a William Shakespeare. – not the specific William Shakespeare, one from amongst many William Shakespeares.

    A: “Now go and get the right key!”

    B: “[…].”

    A: “The lock is brass, so I think it will be a brass key.” – The adjective qualifies and restricts the noun and thus the choice of “the” or “a/an”. Either an adjective can make a noun specific: the right key – there is only one or it qualifies a noun that actually means “type of <noun>”: a brass [type of] key. i.e. any brass key/one of the brass keys.

    B: “There are two types of ø key in the cabinet, brass ones and steel ones.” Key has no article because it indicates the entire class of keys.

    B: [pauses for thought] “Ø Honesty. […] - No article as honesty is not specific in this context and is uncountable.

    A: “Well, they need a type of ø honesty, […] - No article as honesty is not specific in this context and is uncountable.

    A: “[…] an honesty where they are not thieves.” - (i) an/a = one; an uncountable noun has been converted to a countable noun because there are types of honesty and this is one of them.

    A: “[…] They don’t need the honesty of a judge; this is a specific honesty; only judges have it.

    A: “[…] I’m not bothered if ø locksmiths cheat on their taxes. […]”

    A: “Now go and get that key.” - that can be changed for the.

    B: “We could knock the door down; the room is not a Fort Knox.” One (pronoun) that is an example of <[proper] noun>.
     
    Last edited:

    Englishmypassion

    Senior Member
    India - Hindi
    Thanks for such a detailed answer, Paul.
    Thanks for asking all these very good questions on articles, VikNik.:thumbsup: You save me the trouble of posting threads-- all your questions on articles are the ones otherwise I would have asked. Articles are such a complex concept, very hard to master for non-native speakers. Idioms make things worst.
     

    siares

    Senior Member
    Slovak
    If not, how does a cunning trick of lying down in a clump of grass differ from a cunning trick of digital profiteering?-> the second is one of many cunning tricks; in the first please re-read my post #3.
    I've re-read the post 3 but I didn't get the difference.:(
    I am too traumatised to re-read post 15 a.k.a Death by 1000 Articles.

    Is it important, with set phrases or not, when in the sentence does the trick/expedient appear?:

    Moore escaped by the simple expedient of lying down in a clump of grass.
    A simple expedient of lying down in a clump of grass allowed Moore to escape.

    Moore escaped by the cunning trick of lying down in a clump of grass.
    A cunning trick of lying down in a clump of grass allowed Moore to escape.
    In a cunning trick of digital profiteering, the cost of printing was gradually shifted to individuals.
    The cost of printing was gradually shifted to individuals by the cunning trick of digital profiteering.

    And what if one leaves out the adjectives, is it still the expedient and a trick?
    thank you.
     

    PaulQ

    Banned
    UK
    English - England
    "Moore escaped by a cunning trick of lying down in a clump of grass"
    should be
    "Moore escaped by the cunning trick of lying down in a clump of grass
    or
    "Moore escaped by doing a cunning trick: lying down in a clump of grass.
     
    < Previous | Next >
    Top