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Thread: ...in coming down from the trees

  1. #1
    Почтенный гражданин oldboy's Avatar
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    ...in coming down from the trees

    Many were increasingly of the opinion that they’d all made a big mistake in coming down from the trees in the first place. (© intro)

    Why "the trees" is here, not just "trees"?
    Thanks for correcting me.

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    Quote Originally Posted by oldboy View Post
    Many were increasingly of the opinion that they’d all made a big mistake in coming down from the trees in the first place. (© intro)

    Why "the trees" is here, not just "trees"?
    American English speaker here - can't answer as to why but without "the" doesn't sound right.

    Scott

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    Завсегдатай rockzmom's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by oldboy View Post
    Many were increasingly of the opinion that they’d all made a big mistake in coming down from the trees in the first place. (© intro)

    Why is it "the trees" is here, and not just "trees"?
    Just like Scott, I can't tell you why, but "the" is correct... Robin, are you out there??? Can you explain???
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    Завсегдатай Ramil's Avatar
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    Even though I'm not a native English speaker and I actually learned the grammar I cannot tell exactly why too.
    Here's what I've found:
    Grammar: Definite Article - Yes, you can learn English. - Simple English News

    Just that:
    The Definite article can be used with countable and uncountable singular or plural nouns.
    the book, the trees, the snow, the money
    However, this explanation can help a little bit more:
    Definite & indefinite articles (a/an, the) in English grammar - Waylink English

    By using the, we are signalling to our listener that s/he is very likely to know what we are referring to and that the context of our conversation should help them to identify this. We can use the, therefore, to
    • refer backwards to something that we have already mentioned
    • refer forwards to something that we can take for granted will happen
    • refer to our common ground or shared knowledge
    Here are some examples to illustrate each of those contexts:
    • I was out the other day and I found a ten-pound note on the street. I couldn't decide whether to keep the money or hand it in. (I have already talked about this money in the previous sentence.)
    • We'll need to take an axe to cut the trees . (i.e. those trees that we find in the place that we are going to.)
    • Have you put the cat out? (i.e. our cat)

    It appears, that here the author describes not just trees, but some particular patch of trees he thinks readers would know about.
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    Завсегдатай Crocodile's Avatar
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    I can share my extreme croco-rule which helps me to speak, but I'm pretty sure it's not always correct. This rule is used in cases where the ordinary meanings of "the" (= that, those) and "a" (= one) are not obvious.

    If you can use "my, his/her, our, their" before the noun
    ----> use "the"
    else if the noun is in a singular form
    ----> use "a"
    otherwise,
    ----> don't use anything.
    end if

    So, you have: "they’d all made a big mistake in coming down from their trees in the first place"
    Hence, use "the".

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    Почтенный гражданин oldboy's Avatar
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    An idea has recently struck me. "The" is used here because the author talks of not trees in general, but about the trees the people live in when they were apes. If the author had said just "trees", it would have meant trees of all types: the palm, the spruce, the birch and so on. But saying "the trees", he limited the meaning "trees" to those especial trees.
    What do you think?
    Thanks for correcting me.

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    Завсегдатай Crocodile's Avatar
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    Honestly, with articles I have no idea. Take this example: "Can't see the wood for the trees". Are those "the trees" which are specific in any way? Is that a specific "the wood"? You could probably say "the trees" are specific because they are part of "the wood" which was mentioned earlier, and "the wood" is specific because it refers to something important that was mentioned earlier. I mean, after the fact we could probably find a reasonable explanation, but would that help us to use it correctly in a speech?

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    Старший оракул
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    My take on this:

    Those trees are not actual trees. No ape ever came down from a tree and, voila, became a human, it doesn't work like that. Those trees are an abstract concept. In a sense, they are not even plural. It is a unique concept and being unique, but not being a proper name, it takes "the".

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    Старший оракул
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    Quote Originally Posted by Crocodile View Post
    I mean, after the fact we could probably find a reasonable explanation, but would that help us to use it correctly in a speech?
    Yes, there are so many "rules" about articles that usually it's no trouble to explain an article, even if it is used incorrectly, but it is close to impossible to choose a "proper rule" when you need to use an article yourself.

    For example, in the sentence above, shouldn't I have written "the proper rule"? I am not sure. Perhaps, either one could do.

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    Старший оракул Seraph's Avatar
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    This is something like a set expression. It is a figurative usage. In well worn expressions, the particular article used is relatively fixed.
    'A nod is as good as a wink to a blind horse.' If someone uses a different article, then it simply sounds strange, and the sense gets confused.

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    Завсегдатай rockzmom's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by oldboy View Post
    An idea has recently struck me. "The" is used here not because the author talks of not trees in general, but about the trees the people lived in when they were apes. If the author had just said just "trees", it would have meant trees of all types: the palm, the spruce, the birch and so on. But saying "the trees", he limited the meaning of "trees" to those especial trees.
    What do you think?

    Usage note
    In American English the adjective special is overwhelmingly more common than especial in all senses: He will be of special help if you can't understand the documentation. The reverse is true of the adverbs; here especially is by far the more common: He will be of great help, especially if you have trouble understanding the documentation. Only when the sense “specifically” is intended is specially more idiomatic: The machine was specially designed foruse by a left-handed operator.


    Quote Originally Posted by Crocodile View Post
    "Can't see the wood for the trees".
    And I've always heard it as "You can see the forest through the trees."
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    Завсегдатай Crocodile's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by rockzmom View Post
    And I've always heard it as "You can see the forest through the trees."
    I see. I guess, it's the British English idiom: Wood for the trees - Idiom Definition - UsingEnglish.com

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