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...I think it's time to ask what's in a native English speaker's mind when she/he uses "the", because I think the only way to truly understand "the" is not by reading lot, but by thinking like native English speakers do.

After striving to truly understand why "the" is used in English, I've leanred to only use "the" by trying to identify definite nouns but not knowing what difference it would make if "the" is missing.

I understand why to use "the" for only one case in which both sides know the object to which is being referred:

"Do you still remember the weird person we met yesterday?"

In my language, we use "that" instead of "the" for this case so I can understand why "the" is being used.

In the following cases, however, I'm not clear nor am I convinced what difference it would make if "the" is replaced with "a".

"My boss has the authority to fire employees."
"My boss has an authority to fire employees." wrong but why

"In the following cases"
"In following cases" wrong but why

I don't understand why "the" must not be omitted here because it's redundant to use it in my language....

How would you interpret each sentence differently? Does it simply sound wrong because you just feel like using "the" for definite nouns, just like I do for "that" in my language?

Thanks a lot!
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Probably someone who actually teaches English (I just use it to do my job) can explain this better, but try this out: Use "the" to answer the question "which one?"

Anyway, try it like this:

Do you remember that guy? Which guy? The weird guy we met yesterday.

Does your boss have that authority? What authority? The authority to fire someone.

Is it true in that case? Which case? The cases I've described below.

Meanwhile, someone with a better descriptive ability will come along and set it all out for us.
Thanks for the explanations, Gramma Geek. (by the way do I need "the" here? I'm pointing at your explanations.)

And I think it's indeed hard for people who naturally use "the" to explain in-depth when and why we have to use it. Emotion: smile
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Grammar GeekDoes your boss have that authority? What authority? The authority to fire someone.
Oh I think this might be a better way to ask my question:

ie:
Does your boss have (no the) authority to fire someone?

Without "the", I know the sentence sounds unnatural and is grammartically wrong, but what authority would you have in your mind other than the authority to fire someone? (I'm using "the" here only for the sake of grammar without knowing why it's necessary, since my language doesn't have "the" in this case).

Is it just because everyone uses "the" around you since you were born so it has naturally become a part of your speech?

Thanks!
Hi,

what authority would you have in your mind other than the authority to fire someone?

Well, for example, how about the authority to hire someone?

Best wishes, Clive
StarstuffThanks for the explanations, Gramma Geek. (by the way do I need "the" here? I'm pointing at your explanations.)

You are right, Starstuff. Since you are referring to the specific explanations of Grammar Greek, you can use the article "the".
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Thanks rishonly Emotion: smile

Now to Clive: The example you gave was exactly what I didn't understand how your brain works when you see "the" in this case.

Here's what I was thinking:

If someone says "She has authority to fire someone", can't the phrase "to fire someone" tell you the nature of the authority just mentioned? Why would you think about her other authorities like "the authority to hire someone" just because of the missing "the"? This thought keeps confusing me and tempts me to try to adopt YOUR way of thinking rather than just learn how to spot a definite article and add a "the" in front of it with no clue what the POINT is.

ps: here's my textbook's mechanical explaination: "to fire someone" makes "authority" definite, so you need to add a "the". This is so mechanical. So I wondered, ok? can't you get the message across without "the" here? I really don't understand why using "the" in this case....
Starstuff, you are pointing out an issue that must be a huge problem for people who don't know if it sounds "natural," and I wish I had better answers for you. You're right that you MAY leave out the "the" in the authority example, but not, for example, in "I have the feeling you may be right."

But I still think that if it answers the (unasked) question "which one?" - then if you include the "the" you won't be wrong, whereas if you leave it out, you will be wrong at least some of the time.

I'd love to give a better answer, but I don't know what it is!
Hi Starstuff,

Yes, I understand what you mean, and the difficulty you find in this. I think you realize that it's hard for native speakers to explain this. We are asked questions about 'rules' and logic, and we try to help people by answering in the same way, but I don't think such explanations are completely adequate. I don't always know how my brain processes these matters. It's a matter of having a 'feel', an 'instinct' for the language. That doesn't always help learners, but if you read and listen a lot, I think it's possible that you can develop this to a good extent.

A. He has authority to fire someone. B. He has the authority to fire someone.

Here are a couple more comments.

In B, it sounds like his boss specifically said to him, 'You are allowed to fire people'.

In A, it sounds like his boss said more generally, 'I want you to run this department'.

Best wishes, Clive
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