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Use of the articles with nouns in some syntactical functions

§ 206. 1. A noun in the subject position is usually preceded by the definite article in its specifying function, or by either of the articles in their generic function. In these cases the noun denotes some notion forming the starting point of the utterance and therefore is presented as known to both the speaker and the addressee.

The way was long. The wind was cold.

The minstrel was infirm and old.


The indefinite article in its classifying function occurs to express the idea of novelty or unexpectedness, no matter what the position of the subject is:


On the opposite side of the landing a girl was standing.

A girl was standing on the opposite side of the landing.


Such sentences are translated into Russian with inverted word order:


На другой стороне площадки стояла девушка.


A similar use of the indefinite article occurs in sentences with the existential construction There is (comes, appears, etc.), as in:


There is an exception to the rule.


2. When used as a predicative the noun is usually preceded by the indefinite article in its classifying function. The position of the predicative is most suitable for the manifestationof the classifying function and for giving some new information:


This is a house.

George is a telephone engineer.


The definite article before a noun in this position suggests the identity of the object expressed by the predicative noun with that expressed by the subject:


This is the house that Jack built.


He is the telephone engineer (the one we have sent for).


The absence of the article before predicative count nouns indicates:


a) that the noun has lost its original meaning and suggests some social position, post or title:

Mrs Mantoffle was president of all sorts of societies and committees.

With this knowledge he can be king.

He was on the programme as assistant stage Manager.

J. F. Kennedy was elected President in I960.


b) that the idea of quality or state predominates over the idea of thingness (usually when the noun is

preceded by ‘more’orfollowed by ‘enough’).

Fool, fool that she was to get into such a state.

But you’ll be man enough to tell me the truth.

Randal was in the end more artist than scientist.

3. With the noun functioning as objects any article can be used depending on how the speaker formulates his thought; the indefinite article is preferable after verbs of possession and obligatory in verb-object phrases denoting a single action such as to have a smoke, to give a look, etc.


4. The use of the articles with nouns in the function of an adverbial modifier depends partly on the type of adverbial modifier.

In adverbial modifiers of place the definite article is used in its speci­fying function to identify the exact place:


Jane is in the garden.


The indefinite article in its classifying function is preferable when the attention is focused on a description of the place rather than on its identification, as in: Crystal lived alone in a small shabby house.

In adverbial modifiers of comparison the indefinite article is preferably used in its classifying function with the generic tinge since comparison is drawn with a representative of the class: e.g. I can read you like a book. It is used also in phraseological combinations as strong as a lion, as hard as a nail, as meek as a mouse, etc.

5. In attributes the indefinite article is used to emphasize the importance and novelty of the notion mentioned. Therefore we find the indefinite article in such phrases as the son of a teacher, the daughter of a doctor, or
a doctor's daughter, it may be paraphrased as Her father is a doctor. She is the daughter of the doctor uggests reference to a definite person known from the situation equal to our doctor, the doctor here.

6. In apposition either of the articles can be used, depending on whether the noun in apposition serves to classify or to identify the notion expressed by the noun:

I've got acquainted with Mr Smith, an architect.

We've got acquainted with Mr Smith, the architect.

There is a substantial difference in the communicative value of the apposition depending on the use of the articles. The indefinite article implies that the listener (reader) does not know anything about the person or thing denoted by the head-noun and requires some new knowledge about it. Here the indefinite article has a classifying function:

Have you ever heard of 'Caesar's Wife', a play by Maugham?

Paul Long, a neighbour of yours, will be visiting us this evening.

The definite article implies that the listener (reader) is supposed to be familiar with the person or thing mentioned from his general knowledge or the situation

I want to speak to Mr Smith, the electrician.

"Hamlet", the tragedy by Shakespeare, has been screened many a time.


Note a restrictive appositions in noun phrases of the kind: the (famous) novelist Gr. Greene, the novel "The Heart of the Matter", the number ten (цифра десять) (but: page number 10), the noun "story" the letter "e".




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