Like, “the”

So true–and probably why I never get a second date…

Nunberg is a super-serious linguist, by the way–and an unusual one, in that he has been very successful in bringing real linguistics to the general public.  Check out his Wikipedia page here.

What’s so interesting about “the”?  Go ahead–tell me what it means.  Hell, forget what it means–just tell me how you know when to–and when not to–use it.


10 thoughts on “Like, “the””

  1. I can tell you that I often have real difficulties to decide if I need to write “the” or not in English . Of course, staying a whole year in Anglophone lands or reading quite some English classical litterature as well as modern newspapers could solve the problem, but without that it’s often a hassle and a source of inaccuracy for “the” poor me .

    Liked by 1 person

  2. My Tunisian friend ( native languages French and Arabic) is fluent in English with just one habit she cannot shake and that is saying “one” instead of “a” before nouns .

    For example, she will say “let’s take one train into town” rather than, “let’s take a train into town”

    Maybe it’s because “one” is closer in sound to “un/une” and trips of her tongue better?

    Oh,and I’m not going to try to define “the”

    Liked by 2 people

  3. My favourite use of humble ‘the’ is as an emphasis if I analyse my speech and writing. So I would say something is ‘THE most important’ ‘THE real deal’ ‘THE tastiest’ etc. I am quite vivacious in my use of language and how that happened I have no notion … something in the water I was washed in at birth, I imagine. English English is the language I absorbed from that moment …. this is my lame explanation.


  4. It’s hard to make the case (a case?) to non-native speakers that there’s rhyme or reason in the use of ‘the’ when even Brits and Americans use it differently in some cases (e.g., in hospital/in the hospital, to cite one of many such differences). But even in native speaker student writing I find errors of omission and commission with ‘the’.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh you say rhyme and reason in English too ? Because in French for a non sensible action or declaration we qualify it like this ” … sans rime ni raison” .


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