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Thread: Definite article use

  1. #1
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    Definite article use

    Look at this two examples from J.K. Rowling's "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows", Bloomsbury Publishing Plc, 2007, chapter I, p.9

    1. (the very first sentence) The two men appeared out of nowhere, a few yards apart in the narrow moonlight lane".
    We don't know anything who were the men and where the lane was. Why is the definite article used in the both occurences?

    2. The lane was bordered on the left by wild, low-growing brambles, on the right by a high, neatly manicured hedge. [...]The high hedge curved with them, running off into the distance beyond the pair off impressive wrought-iron gates barring the men's way.
    Why "THE" pair of gates? We read about them for the first time.
    Please correct my English

  2. #2
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    Re: Definite article use

    In the first instance, the two men are the main subject of the passage. Although you don't know who they are, the are the main "event", so to speak, of the story at that point.
    In the second instance, "the pair of impressive... gates" is what's blocking their way. Again it's something specific, something defined.

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    Re: Definite article use

    Interesting. So the definite article is used like a measure to highlight something, not a neutral part of the language as I have thought about it before. Thank you!
    Please correct my English

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    Re: Definite article use

    It's a literary convention. The author is trying to give you the feeling that this is NOT the beginning of the story. Normally in beginning a story you would use indefinite articles here.

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    Re: Definite article use

    Thank you, paulb, for the best explanation!
    Please correct my English

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    Re: Definite article use

    Quote Originally Posted by Ленивец
    Look at [s:2k8c4y0r]this[/s:2k8c4y0r] these two examples from J.K. Rowling's "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows", Bloomsbury Publishing Plc, 2007, chapter I, p.9

    1. (the very first sentence) The two men appeared out of nowhere, a few yards apart in the narrow moonlight lane".
    We don't know anything about who [s:2k8c4y0r]were the[/s:2k8c4y0r] these men are [s:2k8c4y0r]and[/s:2k8c4y0r] or where the lane [s:2k8c4y0r]was[/s:2k8c4y0r] is. Why is the definite article being used in both of these [s:2k8c4y0r]the both[/s:2k8c4y0r] occurrences?

    2. The lane was bordered on the left by wild, low-growing brambles, on the right by a high, neatly manicured hedge. [...]The high hedge curved with them, running off into the distance beyond the pair off impressive wrought-iron gates barring the men's way.
    Why "THE" pair of gates? We are just reading about them for the first time.
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    Re: Definite article use

    Quote Originally Posted by paulb
    It's a literary convention. The author is trying to give you the feeling that this is NOT the beginning of the story. Normally in beginning a story you would use indefinite articles here.
    That's my opinion as well. A very similar device is sometimes used by Russian writers. A Russian action novel could very well begin with something like "Эти двое появились в этом узеньком переулке внезапно, будто вынырнув из-под земли".

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    Re: Definite article use

    Many thanks, Rockzmom!

    Your use of tenses is a completely new approach for describing events in a book, (as well as processes of reading and writing) for me. One can learn something at any time.
    Please correct my English

  9. #9
    Hanna
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    Re: Definite article use

    This question surely illustrates how tricky it must be to learn to use definite articles when you haven't used them before. I couldn't even have explained why "the" was needed. Good job Koynas and the others.

    Definite article is probably a little bit less logical than when to use imperfect / perfect in Russian --- which is becoming somewhat clearer to me, but still confuses sometimes...

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