definite/indefinite article problem

English grammar help. Grammar questions from ESL learners

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definite/indefinite article problem

Postby familyman » Fri May 25, 2012 4:45 am

I was trying to explain something to my students about articles and found myself stumped. Here is the example I used:

Q: What is wrong with you car?

A #1: The radiator is broken. (The definite article is used because both the speaker and the listener know which radiator they are referring to.)

A #2: It has a broken radiator.

Even though I know that A #2 cannot use the definite article, I cannot explain why it uses the indefinite article, "A."

Could anyone please explain this? Thanks.

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Re: definite/indefinite article problem

Postby Alan » Sat May 26, 2012 5:44 am

Because the NP functions in your second example as the object of the verb 'have', the use of the definite article would imply the absurd possibility that the car possesses the only broken radiator in existence. The use of the definite article in the first, however, simply serves to specify that reference here is to what, in the context of this utterance, is the only item of relevance matching the description 'radiator', namely the radiator belonging to the vehicle under discussion.

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