use of the definite article

English grammar questions, answered by Alan

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use of the definite article

Post by Hela » Wed Dec 19, 2012 10:43 am

Dear Alan,

It seems that I should use the indefinite article in the following sentence but I don't understand why. Wouldn't it be possible to use the definite article as well since "dog" here could be a generic reference?

Many families keep pet animals like dogs. As is pointed out by some scientists, A / THE dog needs a regular balanced diet, not just meat.

I would be grateful if you could give me the reasons for using (or not) the definite and indefinite articles in this instance.

Thank you for your help.

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Re: use of the definite article

Post by Alan » Thu Dec 20, 2012 1:28 am

Both are grammatical, but only the indefinite article is natural in this context. Use of generic 'the' with the names of animals, etc. tends to be restricted to very general, scientific statements, e.g.

The dog is believed to be descended from a wolf-like animal.

(Note that it is the indefinite article that would be strange here.)