Definite Words In A Maybe World

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It can be a green velvet La-Z-Boy rocker recliner. It can be a lime green velvet La-Z-Boy rocker recliner with a cigarette burn on the left arm and a crushed jelly doughnut pressed into the back edge of the seat cushion. By the time we get to the last description, we have surely reached the individual, a single chair. Note how easy it is to visualize this chair, and how much attitude we can form about it.

The more you rely on general terms, the more your writing is likely to be vague and dull. As your language becomes more specific, though, your meanings become clearer and your writing becomes more interesting. Does this mean you have to cram your writing with loads of detailed description? First, you don't always need modifiers to identify an individual: Bill Clinton and Mother Teresa are specifics; so are Bob's Camaro and the wart on Zelda's chin.

Second, not everything needs to be individual: sometimes we need to know that Fred sat in a chair, but we don't care what the chair looked like.

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If you think back to what you've just read, chances are you'll most easily remember and most certainly understand the gold Rolex, the Mercedes, and the lime green La-Z-Boy rocker-recliner. Their meanings are clear and they bring images with them we more easily recall things that are linked with a sense impression, which is why it's easier to remember learning how to ride a bike or swim than it is to remember learning about the causes of the Civil War.

We experience the world first and most vividly through our senses. From the beginning, we sense hot, cold, soft, rough, loud. Our early words are all concrete: nose, hand, ear, cup, Mommy.

The definite article

We teach concrete terms: "Where's baby's mouth? I think part of it is that we're trying to offer ideas or conclusions. We've worked hard for them, we're proud of them, they're what we want to share. After Mary tells you that you're her best friend, you hear her tell Margaret that she really hates you. Warner promises to pay you extra for raking her lawn after cutting it, but when you're finished she says it should be part of the original price, and she won't give you the promised money.

Your dad promises to pick you up at four o'clock, but leaves you standing like a fool on the corner until after six. Your boss promises you a promotion, then gives it instead to his boss's nephew. From these and more specific experiences, you learn that you can't always trust everybody. Do you tell your child those stories? More probably you just tell your child, "You can't always trust everybody.

It took a lot of concrete, specific experiences to teach you that lesson, but you try to pass it on with a few general words. You may think you're doing it right, giving your child the lesson without the hurt you went through. But the hurts teach the lesson, not the general terms. You can check out this principle in the textbooks you read and the lectures you listen to.


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If you find yourself bored or confused, chances are you're getting generalizations and abstractions. One of the most useful questions you can ask of an unclear presentation including your own is, "Can you give me an example? Your writing whether it's in an essay, a letter, a memorandum, a report, an advertisement, or a resume will be clearer, more interesting, and better remembered if it is dominated by concrete and specific terms, and if it keeps abstract and general terms to a minimum.

Go ahead and use abstract and general terms in your thesis statement and your topic sentences. But make the development concrete and specific. Sometimes students think that this discussion of types of language is about vocabulary, but it's not. You don't need a fancy vocabulary to come up with bent spoon or limping dog or Mary told Margaret she hates me. It's not about imagination, either. If you have reached any kind of a reasoned conclusion, you must have had or read about or heard about relevant experiences. Finding concrete specifics doesn't require a big vocabulary or a vivid imagination, just the willingness to recall what you already know.

If you really can't find any examples or specifics to support your general conclusion, chances are you don't really know what you're talking about and we are all guilty of that more than we care to admit. Where do these concrete specifics emerge in the writing process?

You should gather many concrete specifics in the prewriting steps of invention and discovery. If you have many concrete specifics at hand before you organize or draft, you're likely to think and write more easily and accurately. It's easier to write well when you're closer to knowing what you're talking about. You will certainly come up with more concrete specifics as you draft, and more as you revise, and maybe still more as you edit. But you'll be a better writer if you can gather some concrete specifics at the very start. After you have read and thought about this material, you should have a fairly clear idea of what concrete specifics are and why you want them.

Your next step will be to practice. Abstract, Concrete, General, and Specific Terms. It is used here with his permission. Introduction Language may be our most powerful tool. Abstract and Concrete Terms Abstract terms refer to ideas or concepts; they have no physical referents. General and Specific Terms General terms and specific terms are not opposites, as abstract and concrete terms are; instead, they are the different ends of a range of terms.

Summing Up If you think back to what you've just read, chances are you'll most easily remember and most certainly understand the gold Rolex, the Mercedes, and the lime green La-Z-Boy rocker-recliner. What principles discussed on this page are at work in the following excerpt from Jeff Bigger's essay, Searching for El Chapareke? Pigs wandered down the road in idle joy, and the dogs fought on cue outside the small shop. Hello, In a recent research on the Internet about ''Parts of speech'' I found out that articles the, a, an are considered adjectives.

Is it right or wrong?

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In what case does this happen? Is there any difference between British English and American English? Thank you in advance. I'm not familiar with that idea; in most grammars, they are considered determiners. I would encourage you to check several grammars to get different perspectives on this idea.

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With a few exceptions in a small number of specific phrases, the use of articles in British and American English is exactly the same. Does the of-phrase make the noun [ intake ] specific or Can I drop the definite article? Is there any rule regarding this? I would suggest 'about sugar intake' here, to be honest.

If you say 'intake of sugar', though, I would say 'our', or perhaps 'the', here. Thank you Kirk. Not knowing that you have answered my question I have posted another one. Kindly ignore it. Do we require 'the' before 'contemporary politics'? Or we may write: "The book resonates with the historical past and the author's contemporary politics.

I expect that no article is required before 'contemporary politics', but it is impossible to be sure, and nor can we be sure if an article is required before 'historical past'. The sentence is not in any kind of context, so we do not know what has been said before and what will follow. Articles are reference devices which can refer to things in the sentence or outside it this is why, presumable, you have a definite article before 'book'.

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Here, we do not know if there is any reference outside of the sentence, and so cannot comment with any confidence. ICP : Google Tag Manager.

Log in Subscribe Newsletter. Level: beginner The definite article the is the most frequent word in English. This is why we use the definite article with a superlative adjective : He is the tallest boy in the class.

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We also use the definite article: to say something about all the things referred to by a noun: The wolf is not really a dangerous animal. We use the definite article in this way to talk about musical instruments : Joe plays the piano really well. Level: beginner The definite article with names We do not normally use the definite article with names: William Shakespeare wrote Hamlet.

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