Wednesday, December 5

Representative Noun






A lesson on Articles (A, An, and The) is one of the most difficult in English. It would take a long time to master their usage. Their scope is very wide and the student’s knowledge must be deep.



But today we’re going to talk about one part of this complex topic.




First, take a look at our example sentence below:



The cheetah is the fastest animal.



image courtesy of stock.xchng



In our sentence, our Subject (“the cheetah”) is Singular, but how many cheetahs do you think we are talking about?



Maybe you can feel it too. Even though our Subject and Verb are Singular, if you consider the meaning of our sentence, you can feel that the cheetah we’re talking about is not only one but all the cheetahs in the world.



This way:



The cheetah is the fastest animal. = Cheetahs are the fastest animals.



It's the same case when we say:
  



              Sentence                                      Meaning



The lion is the king of the jungle. = Lions are the kings of the jungle.



Alexander Graham Bell invented the telephone. = Alexander Graham Bell invented all telephones.



The computer is an amazing machine. = Computers are amazing machines.




Why? How did this happen?



Before I answer your question, let me ask you something first. Do you know the meaning of the word “representative?”



The word “representative” is often used when we’re talking about democracy. And democracy is a system where one person (we call a “representative”) becomes the leader of our country or city.



Because not everybody can become the leader (that would be impossible!), we choose a representative to lead us.



This way:





It’s the same thing in our sentence: The Singular Noun (cheetah) is like a representative of all the cheetahs.



In other words, some sentences in English talk about the whole class or type that the Noun belongs to, not only one member.





In science, we call a group of the same animals a “species.” For example, all the cheetahs are one species, all the lions are one species; all the humans are one species; etc.



Similarly, all the telephones are one type of machine; all the washing machines are one type of machine; all the computers are one type of machine; etc.



So, even though you just use a Singular Noun in your sentence, you can make the meaning of the whole “species” or type.





Here are more examples:



She can play the piano very well. = Ok


Do you know how to play the guitar? = Ok


The violin is my favorite instrument. = Ok




Do you remember now? You've often heard the names of musical instruments used together with the Definite Article the,” haven't you? This happens for the same reason: Representative Noun



The structure The + Representative Noun is commonly used for species of animals, inventions, and musical instruments. 



Our sentences above mean:



She can play the piano very well. = She can play any piano.



Do you know how to play the guitar? = Do you know how to play any guitar?



The violin is my favorite instrument. = Any violin is my favorite instrument.







How About Sports?



Be careful though. We add the Definite Article the” to the names of musical instruments, but we don’t do the same when we’re talking about sports.



So:


She can play the volleyball very well. = X


The football is a very physical sport. = X


Let’s go play the basketball. = X



When you’re using the names of these sports in your sentence, don’t put any Article.



These are fine:



She can play the volleyball very well. = Ok


The Football is a very physical sport. = Ok


Let’s go play the basketball. = Ok



The same is true of games: 



Do you want to play checkers / chess / tic tac toe etc.?





A Reminder



Lastly, although the rules that I mentioned above are usually correct, of course there will always be exceptions.



For example,


I’m going to the mall to buy a piano.


I didn't know she had a flute.


Man is a social animal. 
( =“man” means all human beings)




In any case, the structure The + Representative Noun is still a very effective rule for you to practice. So start using it!






Hope you learned something!

Keep on learning !














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