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The other day I explained the difference between definite and indefinite articles to a student, saying that "the" was specific (ex. the dog barked) and "a, an" non-specifc (eg. I want a dog). So, the next day he made a comment like "My car got stuck in the puddle", and I corrected him saying "your car got stuck in a puddle". He said no, "the" puddle, because it was a specific puddle that he got stuck in, not just any puddle. His reasoning sounded good to me, so why is it "a" instead of "the"? Help!!!
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Not limited to guessing the gender of a participant. I made guesses on some answers that might be wrong.
I wonder what they are.
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Of all the answers I've posted so far, they stand a chance to be wrong. Any corrections would be welcomeEmotion: smile Sometimes, it is just phyched to answer some questions, hopefully it is not out of line or somethingEmotion: smile. Just give it a shot for learning sake. (H)
Hey Ryan! (or anyone else out there!) Another confusion came up in class yesterday! Why do we say "I went to the bank" or "I went to the store" instead of "I went to a bank" or "I went to a store"? The speaker is introducing the object to the listener for the first time (just like "I stepped in A puddle"), and the listener doesn't know WHICH specific bank or store (or zoo or park) the speaker is referring to, so why isn't it "a"??? Would "the bank", "the store" etc. etc. be considered "commonly known", even though they are not? I think of "commonly know" as something the the Empire State Building. Thanks!
When you say " to the bank", " to the store" you mean to the ones you usually go to. Compare to " I went to a different bank today to cash some euros".
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When you say " to the bank", " to the store" you mean to the ones you usually go to but "I went to a different bank today to cash some euros".
Yes, Maj, I can see it, but it still seems contradictory to the other explanation about introducing something for the first, compared to subsequent, times. I think my best option would be to STOP trying to explain the reasons for the/a/ommision of articles, and just hope my student gets it by osmosis!!! : )
Alexanndra,

Osmosis is a good idea. But, in defense of my original comments:

It's commonly known that people use banks and go to them often. It's a frequently occuring thing for the vast majority of people.

My coworker says to me, "I went to the bank." I think: my city has many banks each having many braches, my coworker means his bank and probably his branch - i.e. the place where his money is. So, while I don't know the street address, I know exactly where he went. If someone else were to quiz me about my coworker I could tell them with confidence that "he went to his bank." Common knowledge allows him (and me) to talk about "the" bank.

Contrast this with: "I went to the coffee shop." Unless we're living in a one horse town, I have no idea where my friend went. I don't know the street address, and furthermore I don't have any other information to make this coffee shop special. If quized by someone else, I would say "She went to a coffee shop". So, "the" here is improper, "a" is better.

Every person and every thing have commonly associated objects. It's reasonably safe to say everyone has a bank, a phone, but not a coffee shop. This is why we can say, "I was at home. The phone rang. It was the bank." We don't say: "I needed a job so I called the coffee shop", but we do say: "I needed a loan so I called the bank".

So to reword my previous advice. Use "the" if you are more or less sure that the people listening will know "the" thing that you're talking about, and use "a" when there is doubt.

Does this work? Am I stretching it too much?
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Well, Ryan, I buy it, but the real test will be if my student does! : ) Thanks!
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