Another inspired blog post…..last week’s blog post was inspired by a former student of mine. This week’s blog post was inspired by something I heard on the radio this week. I was listening to KGO 810 AM and heard Ronn Owens, a popular KGO host, talking about the word the. I started thinking about the quirkiness of the word and decided it would make a fun post.
The is, of course, an article in the English language, along with a and an. In fact, I wrote a post about articles just a couple of weeks ago. But this is different.
Ronn Owens, if you read this post, please know that I borrowed some things from your broadcast, but I am giving you full credit, and I will post the link to the radio show at the end of this post!
Okay. So what does the word the mean? What is it used for? It is the definite article in the English language . The indefinite articles are a and an. When you talk about “a book,” you could be talking about any book (using the indefinite article). However, when you talk about “the book,” you are talking about a specific book (using the definite article). That part is pretty straightforward.
Most languages have articles, but then some don’t. For example, Japanese and Russian don’t have articles. However, before you think how much less confusing that might be, consider that French and Spanish are among the languages that have articles with gender! Every noun is either feminine or masculine, and the gender doesn’t really have much to do with the noun at all. In French, the indefinite pronoun is un (masculine) or une (feminine). The definite pronoun (the in English) is la for feminine, le for masculine, and les for plural. And German has masculine, feminine and neuter articles!
But back to English. The is a quirkly word in itself, and someone new to the language must have a difficult time figuring out whether or not to put the before a world at all. Consider these:
Up here in Northern California, we travel (or sit in traffic) on 101. In Massachusetts (I know because I used to live there), we risk our lives on 128 and 495. But (and if you watch Saturday Night Live, you know all about this one)….you take the 405 to the 110. (Forgive me if I have my freeways confused!) So why don’t we take the 101?
In Boston you take the T. But in San Francisco, you don’t take the BART. You take BART.
In America we go to the hospital, but in Britain, you go to hospital.
You go to the mall, to the park, to the store, and to the lake…..but you go to school and to work. You can go to the school, but it implies a slightly different meaning. Perhaps we don’t put the in front of school or work because they are repetitive activities, more like verbs in a way. You go to school, if you attend regularly. You go to the school if you are visiting, or if your child is in trouble there.
You go to the Golden Gate Bridge, the Empire State Building, and the Grand Canyon. But you go to Yosemite.
You go to the police station. But then you go to jail.
You go to the bathroom. But then, you go to bed.
You take the bus and the train, but do you take the plane? Taking the plane sounds as if you stole it. Most of the time we simply fly.
You go to the bank. But then you pay your taxes at city hall.
You go on the rides at the fair, but then you eat funnel cake and fried Twinkies.
You get the point….it sure takes the cake……
Here is a link to the podcast of Ronn Owen’s November 11 show….it is November 11, 11 a.m. segment, about 15 minutes in.