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Hi,

According to the Writing Center at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute's online help site, one of the Five Sources of Definiteness is told as:

A modifying word, phrase, or clause follows the noun and makes it clear which specific person or thing you are referring to. But not every noun that is modified in this way is definite.

Plese tell me what that means.

Did I write the underlined possessive correctly?
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Hi Believer,

I am having a hard time understanding it as well. But I had to answer this one, because, as an alumna of that fine institution, I can tell you they are far more well known for their engineers than their writers (I am a notable expection, of course Emotion: stick out tongue ).

Your use of the possession is fine. I'll go back and look at the site in more detail and see if I can make more sense of it.
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Okay, I understand it now. Actually, it's a pretty good explanation. Here is it with a larger context.

A modifying word, phrase, or clause follows the noun and makes it clear which specific person or thing you are referring to. But not every noun that is modified in this way is definite; it depends largely on the situation and on what you can reasonably expect your listener/ reader to know about.

  • Do you remember the girl who went camping with us? [Using the here implies that there was only one girl who went camping with you; otherwise the clause who went camping with us would not be sufficient to identify the particular girl that you are referring to. If there were two girls, then you would have to be more specific, saying perhaps "Do you remember the girl from Iowa who went camping with us last May?"]
  • John is reading a book about quantum physics. [Here the noun book is modified by the phrase about quantum physics. But there is undoubtedly more than one book about quantum physics. Therefore, to make book definite, we would have to add more information: "the book about quantum physics that was assigned by Professor Jackson last week."]

So if I say "I'll meet you at the restaurant" it's incomplete unless you and I have already talked about which restaurant. But if I say "I"ll meet you at at the restaurant on the corner of Main and Third - I can never remember the name, but the one with the blue awning, you know?" (and there's only one restaurant that could meet this definition), I would use the definite article the.

Thank you, GG.

I think I do understand the examples given by your alma mater's website but what I don't understand is when you have a word, phrase or clause that follows the noun and makes it clear which specific person or thing you are referring to, by that fact, it seems the definiteness is established. Am I wrong? If a noun is definite due to that fact, what does it mean when the website source tells us that not every noun that is modified in this way is definite (to me, those nouns modified in that way is one hundred percent definite because it said that a word, phrase, or clause that follows a noun make it clear which specific person or thing you are referring to).

Hope my question makes sense.
I thought the Web site did a good job of that:

John is reading a book about quantum physics. ... there is undoubtedly more than one book about quantum physics, so it is still indefinite.

To make book definite, we would have to add more information: the book about quantum physics that was assigned by Professor Jackson last week. Now, there is only one book that meets this description, so it's definite.
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