Another in the Sp grammar series: the definite article

In most respects the definite article has the same uses in Sp as in Eng. In both languages it is used to specify particular things; note the differences between They threw it in the water (a particular body of water) and They threw it in water. But Sp goes farther in calling for the definite article also to specify all of something. Eng does this sporadically (He likes the movies vs He likes television), Sp. consistently. More often than not, when a noun would be used in Eng without the article but in Sp with the article, it will be found to be a subject noun rather than an object noun. This is because we ordinarily do not operate on wholes but on parts: in Como carne I eat meat, one eats only as much meat as he has within reach. One can discuss meat as a whole, but not eat it as a whole, and most verbs are like eat rather than like discuss. When a noun is subject, there is no such problem: La carne es buena Meat is good readily refers to the whole. Since ’all’ normally specifies wholes, it normally calls for the article in Sp whether it has it (all the money) or does not have it (all money) in Eng. But Sp todo translates not only ’all’ but also ’every’. In the latter sense, we must distinguish between a limited ’every’ (Every member present voted = All the members present voted) and an unlimited ’every’ (Every election should be honest). The latter calls for todo,-a in the singular, without the article. EXAMPLES: Sp, unlike Eng, uses the definite article to refer to all of something, an entire mass or collectivity Meat is expensive rice is good Students are independent. Situations are different. Toda la carne cuesta mucho. All meat costs a lot. Todas las huelgas fueron inutiles Every stirke was useless. Toda huelga es inutil. Every strike is useless. With days and places: When the day of the week answers the question What day is it? the article is not used. When the day of the week is itself identified the article may be used or omitted. Elsewhere the article is used. Hoy es viernes Ayer fue jueves (El) domingo es primero. Que fecha fue (el) domingo? Terminamos el lunes. Me gusta ir los lunes. La ropa interior para el martes y la de cama para el sabado. Certain nouns do not take the definite article when expected e.g. casa, clase. Cf. Eng He is home/He is at home/He is in class. I note here, apart from the book, how striking it is when a dialect violates the rule e.g. Brit Eng He is in hospital/Am Eng He is in the hospital. Let me know if this is helpful or confusing.

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