(the) streets of a little town

Ivan_I

Senior Member
Russian
Could you explain to me this:

A dog which was running about the streets of a little town was ....

I think the streets is OK. I think the streets means all the streets of a town.

If it's correct then how can we tell "the streets" (which are all the streets) from "the streets" (which are some specific streets) of a/the town?
 
  • lingobingo

    Senior Member
    English - England
    It doesn’t make any implication about which or how many streets. Nor does it need to. That’s not the point of the statement. Obviously no dog would run around ALL the streets of any town, and it makes no sense to assume that’s what’s being said.

    The definite article conveys that the streets in question are the ones in that particular town, rather than streets in general.
     

    PaulQ

    Senior Member
    UK
    English - England
    I think the streets means all the streets of a town.
    It doesn't. We apply common sense - obviously, the dog was not running down every single street. To do that the dog would have to have a knowledge of a labelled map of the town.
    how can we tell "the streets" (which are all the streets) from "the streets" (which are some specific streets) of a/the town?
    The streets of the town does not imply "some specific streets". It implies "Streets that we know or are aware of in that town". "The streets of the town" is an abstract concept designating the area that has streets in it.
     

    Ivan_I

    Senior Member
    Russian
    OK. If "the streets of the town" doesn't mean "all the streets of the town", why do we put THE? Why can't we just say:

    A dog which was running about the streets of a little town was ....
     

    Ivan_I

    Senior Member
    Russian
    You mean this:
    The definite article conveys that the streets in question are the ones in that particular town, rather than streets in general.

    OK. But I don't imagine how someone can imagine that "streets of a town" (without) an article can mean "streets in general". Of course, if we say "streets of the town of X" it can't mean "streets of the town of Y" or streets in general.

    What's wrong with "A dog which was running about streets of a little town was .... "
     

    Ivan_I

    Senior Member
    Russian
    The streets of the town does not imply "some specific streets". It implies "Streets that we know or are aware of in that town". "The streets of the town" is an abstract concept designating the area that has streets in it.
    But on the other hand, if there was a need to specify some streets there wouldn't be another way of doing it except for putting "the"? Right?

    A dog which was running about the streets of a little town, where we saw it many times, was ...
     

    lingobingo

    Senior Member
    English - England
    “A dog which was running about the streets of a little town” is perfect English (although I would prefer that to which). Why are you questioning it? What don’t you understand?
     

    Ivan_I

    Senior Member
    Russian
    I have explained what I don't understand. Did you know that there are no articles in Russian? That's why I am trying to understand what THE is needed for here.
     

    PaulQ

    Senior Member
    UK
    English - England
    "The streets of the town" is an abstract concept designating the area that has streets in it.
    What's wrong with "A dog which was running about streets of a little town was .... "
    You seem to be under the mistaken impression that if we add "the" to a noun then, instantly, the noun becomes specific...

    This is not so.

    If a noun is specified only then we may (Note I said "may", not "have to") add "the". A noun can be specified in many ways:

    Imagine a stranger approaches you and says
    1. The Taj Mahal is old. -> Taj Mahal is specific because everyone knows of it.
    2. The building over there is old. -> The building is specific because he pointed at it.
    3. The dog is old -> this only works if you and I know that he has a dog and that he is thus specifically speaking about that dog.
    4. "A dog which was running about streets of a little town -> streets has been specified - they are "of a little town" So we "may" add "the" - In fact, with countable nouns, even plural ones, it is common to add "the".
     

    Ivan_I

    Senior Member
    Russian
    You seem to be under the mistaken impression that if we add "the" to a noun then, instantly, the noun becomes specific...

    This is not so.
    That's what I feel and am trying to sort the issue out.

    If a noun is specified only then we may (Note I said "may", not "have to") add "the". A noun can be specified in many ways:

    Imagine a stranger approaches you and says
    1. The Taj Mahal is old. -> Taj Mahal is specific because everyone knows of it.
    2. The building over there is old. -> The building is specific because he pointed at it.
    3. The dog is old -> this only works if you and I know that he has a dog and that he is thus specifically speaking about that dog.
    These examples are clear. Note you have given a singular noun in each example.

    "A dog which was running about streets of a little town -> streets has been specified - they are "of a little town" So we "may" add "the" - In fact, with countable nouns, even plural ones, it is common to add "the".
    This one is different because it has a plural form of a noun. And because of that an ambiguity rises. Because we can imply ALL THE STREETS or just SOME STREETS of the same town.


    Do you remember the streets of the town where the dog used to run? (some specific streets)

    The streets of this town look shabby. (I think we can assume that ALL THE STREETS of the town are implied.)

    Do you see the core of my confusion?
     

    lingobingo

    Senior Member
    English - England
    Why are you dismissing my explanation in #2?

    The definite article conveys that the streets in question are the ones in that particular town, rather than streets in general.
    We were told that the streets of London were paved with gold
    The dog ran around the streets of a [certain] little town
     
    Last edited:

    Ivan_I

    Senior Member
    Russian
    Why are you dismissing my explanation in #3?
    The definite article conveys that the streets in question are the ones in that particular town, rather than streets in general.

    I am not. I am just pointing out that "the streets of a town" sounds ambiguous. Which streets? We have two alternatives.​
    1) All the streets of a town​
    2) Some streets of a town​
    I am just trying to understand how to differentiate.​
     

    Ivan_I

    Senior Member
    Russian
    I see, this ambiguity can be eliminated by the context.

    A similar issue.

    I like people I work with.
    I like the people I work with.

    What's the difference?
     

    VicNicSor

    Banned
    Russian
    I think "running about streets", without the article, would simply not be idiomatic.

    Whether you add "of a town/city/etc" or not, "the streets" implies the streets of the particular area in question as opposed to any other place (the woods, the fields, the jungles, the desert/sands, the river, etc)
     

    lingobingo

    Senior Member
    English - England
    Perhaps a better way to understand when to use the definite article is to look at it from the point of view of when you don’t need one, since almost everything needs a determiner of some kind:

    the world, your brother, their house, that man, these children, a few cats, lots of money, enough food, 100 times, any opportunity, some work, whichever way, whatever angle ……
    people • this is a complete generalisation, with no explanation at all — if it implies anything, it only implies people rather than animals, birds, fish, etc.

    people I work with • this is a partial generalisation, narrowed down to people of a certain kind — those I either do or used to or might hypothetically work with

    the people I work with • now it is specific — now the meaning is (probably, but still depending on the context) my current co-workers/colleagues
     

    PaulQ

    Senior Member
    UK
    English - England
    I have explained what I don't understand. Did you know that there are no articles in Russian? That's why I am trying to understand what THE is needed for here.
    You will never understand how to use "the" if you simply take random sentences as examples.

    You should understand that "the" is a demonstrative adjective that is related in English to "that".
    That noun = the noun that I am indicating
    The is wider in its meaning: The noun = the noun of which we are both aware; the noun that we know we are discussing. You can be aware of the noun because of context, or because it is described.

    Have a look at University of Toronto on use of articles in English
    Using Articles
    Special Cases in the Use of the Definite Article
     

    Ivan_I

    Senior Member
    Russian
    A similar construction.

    a Today we will be talking about names of towns.
    b Today we will be talking about the names of towns.

    Not specific towns are mentioned, just in general. I think a is correct. Do you agree?
     

    Myridon

    Senior Member
    English - US
    Once a non-specific town is picked its name becomes specific.
    The tires of a car. I haven't specified the car, but any car has specific tires.
    a) suggest you will be discussing possible names for towns, not actual names of towns. Banana-grapefruit-boat would be a bad town name.
    b) suggests you will be discussing the names of real towns.
     

    Ivan_I

    Senior Member
    Russian
    Once a non-specific town is picked its name becomes specific.
    The tires of a car. I haven't specified the car, but any car has specific tires.
    a) suggest you will be discussing possible names for towns, not actual names of towns. Banana-grapefruit-boat would be a bad town name.
    b) suggests you will be discussing the names of real towns.
    That's very interesting! I didn't know that.
     
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