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(Mental Floss)   The most common word in the English language is "the". But, you already knew that. Now try and explain what "the" means? Not so easy, huh?   (mentalfloss.com) divider line 87
    More: Interesting, English language  
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3699 clicks; posted to Geek » on 09 Nov 2013 at 10:37 AM (1 year ago)   |  Favorite    |   share:  Share on Twitter share via Email Share on Facebook   more»



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2013-11-09 06:38:43 AM  
It's like, an identifier, like.
 
2013-11-09 06:50:48 AM  
thing
 
2013-11-09 07:59:51 AM  
A word used to specify a particular instance of some noun rather than any instance of it?
 
2013-11-09 08:06:57 AM  

mamoru: A word used to specify a particular instance of some noun rather than any instance of it?


That's not just an answer, that's *the* answer.
 
2013-11-09 08:51:38 AM  

mamoru: A word used to specify a particular instance of some noun rather than any instance of it?


done in the third post. not just a third post.
 
ZAZ [TotalFark]
2013-11-09 09:23:14 AM  
"The" is English for "die."
 
2013-11-09 09:58:20 AM  
3.bp.blogspot.com

Ooh, quizzes. I'VE GOT IT! Well, it doesn't really mean anything, does it?
 
2013-11-09 10:34:04 AM  

FlashHarry: mamoru: A word used to specify a particular instance of some noun rather than any instance of it?

done in the third post. not just a third post.


Except the third paragraph of the article showed the loopholes in that answer.
 
2013-11-09 10:35:27 AM  

mamoru: A word used to specify a particular instance of some noun rather than any instance of it?


Is there any other instance of the piano that I could learn to play?
 
2013-11-09 10:40:31 AM  
The Bart, the.
 
2013-11-09 10:44:45 AM  
It differentiates between a general thing and a specific one/several of that thing.

Many languages do fine without it.
 
2013-11-09 10:47:02 AM  
well you used it 4 times in your headline do there you go
 
2013-11-09 10:49:59 AM  
the do should be the so and the reason is the d key is next to the s key

the the the
 
2013-11-09 11:01:14 AM  
cdn.cnwimg.com
 
2013-11-09 11:01:48 AM  

jaylectricity: mamoru: A word used to specify a particular instance of some noun rather than any instance of it?

Is there any other instance of the piano that I could learn to play?


In that case, "the" piano is a specific instance of an instrument.

I can play piano. Works
I can play a piano . Mucks up things. Since in theory, you can play all of them.
I can play the piano. Works.

Mamoru has a very good definition there. I might have modified that a bit... use of generic or in-specific instance. But I like it.
 
2013-11-09 11:01:54 AM  
upload.wikimedia.org
 
2013-11-09 11:05:11 AM  
is about a particular or specific thing...

if you were talking about a general thing, you would you "a" or "an"
 
2013-11-09 11:06:40 AM  

rogue49: is about a particular or specific thing...

if you were talking about a general thing, you would you "a" or "an"


oops, the 2nd "you" was supposed to be a "use"

see how that works?
 
2013-11-09 11:08:14 AM  

rogue49: rogue49: is about a particular or specific thing...

if you were talking about a general thing, you would you "a" or "an"

oops, the 2nd "you" was supposed to be a "use"

see how that works?


duh, that is actually the 3rd "you".

hmm...no "the" or "a"...but "that"
 
2013-11-09 11:08:58 AM  

rogue49: rogue49: rogue49: is about a particular or specific thing...

if you were talking about a general thing, you would you "a" or "an"

oops, the 2nd "you" was supposed to be a "use"

see how that works?

duh, that is actually the 3rd "you".

hmm...no "the" or "a"...but "that"


nevermind.
 
2013-11-09 11:11:28 AM  
"The" - a direct singular article of a noun. Differentiates between plural article, or indirect single article.
 
2013-11-09 11:12:14 AM  

dletter: FlashHarry: mamoru: A word used to specify a particular instance of some noun rather than any instance of it?

done in the third post. not just a third post.

Except the third paragraph of the article showed the loopholes in that answer.


Maybe the answer is, "the" means what mamoru claims it means, and we just don't talk so good.
For example, I can say "I want to learn to play piano", and it would mean the same thing to an American as "I want to learn to play the piano".
The British, those of them who speak English at least, would make a distinction between cases in which "the" is appropriate and those in which it is not. For example, an Englishman might say "I went to hospital", whereas an American would say, "I went to the hospital", that is, they've left the article out, the reason being that hospital refers to a thing which is being used for the purpose for which it was designed. There is a bit of abstraction going on here, where a noun is not referring to a "thing", but rather an "idea of a thing". Which I'm sure there's some technical word for, but I don't know it.
It's also worth noting that Americans do the same thing sometimes, but not on a consistent basis. Let's go back to our piano example. While you can get away with saying "I want to learn to play piano", you can't get away with saying, "I want to learn to tune piano". The understanding is that the normal thing you do with a piano is play it. Note that if you were to say, "I want to learn to tune the piano", you would, in fact, be understood to refer to a particular instance of piano, because that's what "the" does, as mamoru claimed. The correct way to say that without an article would be, "I want to learn to tune pianos". So it can be argued that we simply botch the language by using "the" when we talk about ideas of things, and it really has nothing to do with what "the" means.
 
2013-11-09 11:15:04 AM  

ZAZ: "The" is English for "die."


Not der or das?
 
2013-11-09 11:16:33 AM  
A word preceding a noun indicating that a particular thing is spoken of rather than a non-specific thing
 
2013-11-09 11:17:18 AM  
You're twice the The he ever was!
 
2013-11-09 11:33:11 AM  
the definitive article.
 
2013-11-09 11:33:46 AM  
Quantumbunny:

..."the" piano is a specific instance of an instrument.

I can play piano. Works
I can play a piano . Mucks up things. Since in theory, you can play all of them.
I can play the piano. Works.


Okay, but what about "I can ride a bike" vs "I can ride the bike"?

shiat's idiomatic, see?
 
2013-11-09 11:36:46 AM  
Many common words are hard to define.  And the usage of many common words, specific connotations, are even more difficult to define.

"Well, now that you mention it..."  What does "well" mean?

"Why, that's absurd."  What does "why" mean?

"That just tears it."  What does "just" mean?

"I even get Showtime!"  What does "even" mean?

Then compare whatever your answer is to the basic denotation of each of the words, and you conclude that your head hurts.

If it doesn't, try to start defining all of the common prepositions.  That will do the trick for sure.
 
2013-11-09 11:39:25 AM  

hankhorsey: Quantumbunny:

..."the" piano is a specific instance of an instrument.

I can play piano. Works
I can play a piano . Mucks up things. Since in theory, you can play all of them.
I can play the piano. Works.

Okay, but what about "I can ride a bike" vs "I can ride the bike"?

shiat's idiomatic, see?


Your face is idiomatic!
 
2013-11-09 11:46:42 AM  
This thread seems like a good place to vent about people who use "no" when they should be saying "not".   I know that I guess it is "acceptable" in informal speech, but hearing something like  "Do you want that or no" just rubs me the wrong way.
 
2013-11-09 11:51:02 AM  

minuslars: ZAZ: "The" is English for "die."

Not der or das?


Any time someone brings up the whole "English is the hardest language to learn" bullcrap my response is "At least we don't have that completely farked up gendered noun nonsense."
 
2013-11-09 11:53:17 AM  

minuslars: ZAZ: "The" is English for "die."

Not der or das?


The Bart the!
 
2013-11-09 11:55:30 AM  
'The' is the superclass constructor of a noun, allowing for the calling of functions of the class Object such as proNoun(obj noun) and adJective(obj noun). Be wary of passing a noun variable as a direct object (functionName(obj& noun)) or an indirect object (functionName(obj noun)).

/wait, that doesn't seem right
 
2013-11-09 12:27:08 PM  

mamoru: A word used to specify a particular instance of some noun rather than any instance of it?


That sounds all well and good, but if you use that as your sole definition, you'll sound like some foreigner who doesn't know English most of the time.
 
2013-11-09 12:30:11 PM  
German:

Nominative Masculine: Der
Nominative Feminine: Die
Nominative Neuter: Das
Nominative Plural: Die
Accusative Masculine: Den
Accusative Feminine: Die
Accusative Neuter: Das
Accusative Plural: Die
Dative Masculine: Dem
Dative Feminine: Der
Dative Neuter: Dem
Dative Plural: Den
Genitive Masculine: Des
Genitive Feminine: Der
Genitive Neuter: Des
Genitive Plural: Der


English:

The
 
2013-11-09 12:42:32 PM  
The - Used before singular or assumed group nouns when a defined name or possessive is not present.  Denotes that the noun is specific and what it refers to should be assumable to the listener based on context and additional supplied details when necessary. This implies that the identity of the noun is important, which can be contrasted with the article 'a' which implies that the noun's identity is inconsequential.  If the speaker does not sufficiently provide context or details for identifying the noun, the listener will generally ask questions regarding the noun or make suggestions to clarify to which identity the speaker refers.
 
2013-11-09 12:45:10 PM  

Mytch: This implies that the identity of the noun is important, which can be contrasted with the article 'a' which implies that the noun's identity is inconsequential.


So why is your favorite song "What does the fox say" and not "What does a fox say"?
 
2013-11-09 12:48:00 PM  

Virtuoso80: German:

Nominative Masculine: Der
Nominative Feminine: Die
Nominative Neuter: Das
Nominative Plural: Die
Accusative Masculine: Den
Accusative Feminine: Die
Accusative Neuter: Das
Accusative Plural: Die
Dative Masculine: Dem
Dative Feminine: Der
Dative Neuter: Dem
Dative Plural: Den
Genitive Masculine: Des
Genitive Feminine: Der
Genitive Neuter: Des
Genitive Plural: Der


English:

The


i.imgur.com

"That's a bingo!"
 
2013-11-09 12:55:56 PM  

Hollie Maea: Mytch: This implies that the identity of the noun is important, which can be contrasted with the article 'a' which implies that the noun's identity is inconsequential.

So why is your favorite song "What does the fox say" and not "What does a fox say"?


It was written by Norwegians?
 
2013-11-09 12:59:30 PM  

Virtuoso80: German:

Nominative Masculine: Der
Nominative Feminine: Die
Nominative Neuter: Das
Nominative Plural: Die
Accusative Masculine: Den
Accusative Feminine: Die
Accusative Neuter: Das
Accusative Plural: Die
Dative Masculine: Dem
Dative Feminine: Der
Dative Neuter: Dem
Dative Plural: Den
Genitive Masculine: Des
Genitive Feminine: Der
Genitive Neuter: Des
Genitive Plural: Der


English:

The


Aber der Dativ is dem Genitiv sein Tod.


\good book if you're into quirky German grammar
 
2013-11-09 01:07:28 PM  
To give a more serious answer, nouns don't include just people, places, and things, but also include ideas and concepts. This would include abstractions of things that we may think of as more tangible. An article may become necessary when it is needed to clarify between the abstraction and the source of the abstraction.  This is one of likely two reasons the language evolved in such a way that we say "I can play the piano" vs "I can play chess."  A piano is not only a class of instruments, it's also the name given to the physical object.  Chess is simply the name of the game and only encompasses the idea of what the game is. The physical make-up of the game is a chess board, chess pieces, etc. As such, there is no clarification needed. But abstraction is where a lot of the rules get a bit more grey.  You'll still find people who will say "I can play piano." which to me, actually sounds more clear than 'the piano.'  They get even more bizarre when you include really modern uses in slang, e.g. 'He's the man!'
 
2013-11-09 01:11:15 PM  

hankhorsey: Quantumbunny:

..."the" piano is a specific instance of an instrument.

I can play piano. Works
I can play a piano . Mucks up things. Since in theory, you can play all of them.
I can play the piano. Works.

Okay, but what about "I can ride a bike" vs "I can ride the bike"?

shiat's idiomatic, see?


say your goddamned pronouns, wang!
 
2013-11-09 01:16:38 PM  

Mytch: Hollie Maea: Mytch: This implies that the identity of the noun is important, which can be contrasted with the article 'a' which implies that the noun's identity is inconsequential.

So why is your favorite song "What does the fox say" and not "What does a fox say"?

It was written by Norwegians?


Native English speakers would say it the same way.
 
2013-11-09 01:26:13 PM  

Hollie Maea: Mytch: Hollie Maea: Mytch: This implies that the identity of the noun is important, which can be contrasted with the article 'a' which implies that the noun's identity is inconsequential.

So why is your favorite song "What does the fox say" and not "What does a fox say"?

It was written by Norwegians?

Native English speakers would say it the same way.


See my more serious post, please.  However, I would argue that the vast majority of native speakers would say "What do foxes say?" just as we might say "What chickens eat?" or "What do cats like?" Less commonly, but probably far more commonly than 'the' would be 'a.' "What sound does a horse make when it's hungry?"  The song itself refers to the animals in varying ways, including "Dog goes woof," "Cat goes meow" which are incorrect unless Dog and Cat are proper nouns, which seems rather unlikely.  More likely, the unusual usage of nouns in the song is a sign of unnatural use of articles.
 
2013-11-09 01:39:27 PM  

Mytch: More likely, the unusual usage of nouns in the song is a sign of unnatural use of articles.


I don't know, man...the first toy I can remember having had a string I could pull and it would say "The cow says...moo"

Of course, we all knew how to "hack" it so that it would say stuff like "The cow says...bow wow wow" so maybe it's not the highest authority.
 
2013-11-09 01:47:08 PM  
transitive referent
 
2013-11-09 02:03:48 PM  
Even better:

Try teaching the difference between "the", "an" and "a" to someone who speaks a language that doesn't have a direct equivalent, like Japanese.  I used to tutor Japanese students in English and this was always a tricky one.
 
2013-11-09 02:16:54 PM  

dletter: This thread seems like a good place to vent about people who use "no" when they should be saying "not".   I know that I guess it is "acceptable" in informal speech, but hearing something like  "Do you want that or no" just rubs me the wrong way.


We note that you have not yet fully accepted our new Hispanic masters.
 
2013-11-09 02:20:13 PM  
Now picture what life would be like without the word "the"...

oi43.tinypic.com

Noooooooooo!

/obscure?
 
2013-11-09 02:29:37 PM  
Looks like somebody at Mental_floss is half-way through their Into to Linguistics class.
The is just English for het.
 
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