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Hello.

Please have a look at the sentence below:

In the silence he heard the cry of a child and the lonely yawn of a dog.

1) Is it grammatically correct?
2) Especially, are the definite articles before 'cry' and 'lonely yawn' correct (assuming first mention)? They don't describe either anything specific or anything that is only one (like for example 'the shadow of a child') Or perhaps just a fact that the of-phrase follows them is enough in this case?
3) Does 'yawn' here make sense? Can it mean something like 'howl'?
The dictionary says that 'yawn' means "The action of yawning; opening the mouth widely and taking a long, rather deep breath, often because one is tired or bored.", which doesn't make much sense for me here.

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Please have a look at the sentence below:

In the silence he heard the cry of a child and the lonely yawn of a dog.

1) Is it grammatically correct? Yes
2) Especially, are the definite articles before 'cry' and 'lonely yawn' correct (assuming first mention)? Yes

They don't describe either anything specific or anything that is only one (like for example 'the shadow of a child') Or perhaps just a fact that the of-phrase follows them is enough in this case?
3) Does 'yawn' here make sense? No Can it mean something like 'howl'? No

I think you mean this.

Learner's definition of YOWL[no object] : to make a loud, long cry of grief, pain, or distress
  • The cat was yowling outside.
  • He was yowling in pain.

https://www.learnersdictionary.com/definition/yowl
Merriam Webster

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Thank you. Now there is just one question left...

Clive2) Especially, are the definite articles before 'cry' and 'lonely yawn' correct (assuming first mention)? YesThey don't describe either anything specific or anything that is only one (like for example 'the shadow of a child') Or perhaps just a fact that the of-phrase follows them is enough in this case?

Could you please comment on my understanding above and explain why the definite articles are correct here?

In the silence he heard the cry of a child and the lonely yowl of a dog.

2) Especially, are the definite articles before 'cry' and 'lonely yawn' correct (assuming first mention)? They don't describe either anything specific or anything that is only one (like for example 'the shadow of a child') Or perhaps just a fact that the of-phrase follows them is enough in this case?

Could you please comment on my understanding above and explain why the definite articles are correct here?

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Let's consider a simpler and more concrete example. eg The trunk of an elephant is very long.

I suggest we say 'the trunk' because (almost) everybody knows that an elephant has a trunk.

(or the steering wheel of a car, the trunk of a tree, etc.

I hesitate to say that 'a trunk of an elephant' is incorrect grammar, but I never hear that. In addition, it seems to suggest that an elephant may have more than one trunk.


Another alternative is the trunk of the elephant is very long.This can mean you are talking about one specific elephant, or that you are talking about all trunks of all elephants.

Clive

CliveThe trunk of an elephant is very long.

Yeah, this I think is similar to the example I mentioned - the shadow of a child. There is just one such thing. And this is clear.

CliveI hesitate to say that 'a trunk of an elephant' is incorrect grammar, but I never hear that. In addition, it seems to suggest that an elephant may have more than one trunk.

This is also my understanding and this is why I am wondering whether 'a cry of a child' and 'a lonely yowl of a dog' are possible or even better than 'the cry of a child' and 'the lonely yowl of a dog'. A child can cry many times and a dog can yowl many times. I am not a native speaker so I don't have any intuition for this. All I said is based on the rules I know. Could you please share why you think the definite article is better here? Perhaps both versions create a different meaning? Or just different visualization in a native's mind?

I tried to google this topic of "of-phrases" more, but to no avail unfortunately in this case. The only conclusion is that this matter is not so easy and is case specific.

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I don't really have much to add to what I said last time.

'the trunk of an elephant' is a structure that is commonly used by native speakers.


'a trunk of an elephant' or 'a cry of a child' ' is a structure that I never hear used. Are you suggesting that it is therefore incorrect? I wouldn't. I'd just say that the version with 'the' is idiomatic. You can say it with 'a' if you want to, and you are not likely to be misunderstood.

Clive

Well, I was just curious and tried to not just memorize it but also understand better.
But it seems that I don't have a choice now Emotion: smile

Thank you Clive for your patient answers.