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Hello guys.

When "the + singular" is a subject of a sentence, it can be a general reference.

"The computer revolutionized publishing"

What if we use slightly different examples:

1) "If you want to play the game, use the computer"

Can it also have the meaning "If you want to play games, use computers" (at least to mean gramatically - because I understand, a person probably won't think about this meaning)?

2) "You should better read the book than the magazine"

Again, can it also mean "You should better read books than magazines" ?

3) "It is better read the book than the magazine"

The same question.

4) "What is more dangerous - the cat or the dog?"

Can it be generally cats? Dogs?

----------------------------

And one more thing:

"I was at the party and saw a lot of people there. People were cheerful"

One source told me that It does not absolutely mean "All the people in the party". It is possible that one or two people at the party were unhappy, but generally 'people were cheerful'. The ommited article is "some of" or "most of". I was said that
this type of generality is fine in literature, in conversation or informal writing.

But from what I heard on this forum, I have doubts about the above.
I think that yes, in informal setting we can say that way. "The people should be used/Some/Some of" should be used. otherwise it will be incorrect gramatically.

Am I right?

Thanks.
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Comments  
Nikolay KomolovWhen "the + singular" is a subject of a sentence, it can be a general reference."The computer revolutionized publishing"
It can also be in other positions in the sentence:
The publishing industry was revolutionized by the computer.
Nikolay Komolov1) "If you want to play the game, use the computer" Can it also have the meaning "If you want to play games, use computers" (at least to mean gramatically - because I understand, a person probably won't think about this meaning)?
1) "If you want to play games, use a computer." - This is the completely general form, both for games and computers.
1) "If you want to play games, use the computer." - This is a general reference to games, but with reference to a specific computer.
1) "If you want to play the game, use the computer." This refers to a specific game and a specific computer.
Nikolay Komolov2) "You should better read the book than the magazine"Again, can it also mean "You should better read books than magazines" ?
No.
Nikolay Komolov4) "What is more dangerous - the cat or the dog?"
No. eg. Your friend has two pets and you are asking which one you should avoid.

The context is important. Here is a general statement:
Early man domesticated the dog before the cat. The cat has never been truly domesticated.
Nikolay KomolovWhen "the + singular" is a subject of a sentence, it can be a general reference."The computer revolutionized publishing"
Yes, but that's pretty formal. For generic sentences, the plural without an article is far more common.

Computers revolutionized publishing.

The wisdom of using the plural becomes a little more obvious when you consider one of your other examples:

Which is more dangerous - the cat or the dog?

Most people will take this as non-generic, i.e., about a specific cat and a specific dog. To be sure you're making a generic statement, you usually use the plural without an article:

Which are more dangerous - cats or dogs?

CJ
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Nikolay KomolovAnd one more thing:"I was at the party and saw a lot of people there. People were cheerful"
I would have said, "They were generally cheerful" if I meant that most of them were cheerful.

To say only "People were cheerful" at that point in the conversation is not natural. It's pointless to analyze in all its details a sentence that nobody would say.

CJ
Thanks. I agree there is no point in it. One question - are such generalizations gramatically correct? This is what I wish to know Emotion: smile

Because I think, they are said with no article for brevity, but are grammatically incorrect. Did I get it?
Nikolay KomolovOne question - are such generalizations grammatically correct?
I assume you mean "People were cheerful". Yes, it's grammatically perfect.

Don't confuse "grammatically correct" with "idiomatic" or "useful" or "meaningful". There's a famous sentence in the field of linguistics that is grammatically correct but absolutely meaningless:

Colorless green ideas sleep furiously. (Chomsky)

CJ
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CJ, thanks. I have misunderstood you though. I understand that such generalizations are gramatically correct by itself. But if this generalization refers to already introduced set, we should use a determinator.

In another topic I asked about "I saw animals there. Animals were good", and you told me that it is not correct...

When we say this way, we DO NOT refer grammatically to already introduced items in any way. Therefore here it is incorrect. It is colloquial and in a text where grammar should be perfect such a usage can't be used.

Am I correct?
Nikolay KomolovI understand that such generalizations are grammatically correct by itself. themselves.
Yes. If I'm following you, that's right.
Nikolay KomolovBut if this generalization refers to an already introduced set, we should use a determiner.
If I understand the kind of situation you're describing, then yes, that's right.
Nikolay Komolov I asked about "I saw animals there. Animals were good", and you told me that it is not correct...
In that combination of sentences, you need "The animals". That's probably why I said it was not correct. Often it's a matter of trying to imagine a situation where I would say your sentences, and if I can't think of a situation where I would say the sentence, I sometimes just say it's incorrect. I don't necessarily mean that it's grammatically incorrect, strictly speaking. I just mean it won't fit into the situation you set up with your other sentences.
Nikolay KomolovWhen we say this way, we DO NOT refer grammatically to already introduced items in any way. Therefore here it is incorrect. It is colloquial and in a text where grammar should be perfect such a usage can't be used.
I don't understand this part.

CJ
CalifJimI don't understand this part.
Thanks. I mean that when talking about something specific, already introduced etc., zero article can't refer to those items.
We can say in this way for brevity, but it is incorrect, though the listener will deduce the meaning.

Am I right?
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