Articles - 02

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Articles.


Look at the following passages.

A day or two ago a hawker from the north of Sri Lanka went to the door of a bungalow followed by an old coolie carrying a bundle on his head. The Sri Lankan bade the coolie put the bundle down on a flat stone beside the porch. He gave a knock at the door and called out in the strange Sri Lankan way, with a choking sound, but he had to wait a quarter of an hour before the door was opened and an ugly face peeped out and an angry voice utter the words: “I have a good mind to set the dog on you, if you don’t get a move on!” The Sri Lankan smiled a sunny smile and pointed to the bundle, with an appealing look. But the door was shut in his face with a bang. He waited a little but in the end the only thing he could do was to make the best of it and beat a retreat.

[peep out = “come slowly or partially into view.”]
[“If you say that you have a good mind to do something or have half a mind to do it, you are threatening or announcing that you have a strong desire to do it, although you probably will not do it.”]
[get a move on = go; hurry; move faster; be quicker; ...]
[appealing = “attractive or interesting; showing that you want people to help you or to show you pity or sympathy”]
[make the best of = “derive what limited advantage one can from (something unsatisfactory); use (resources) as well as possible”]
[beat a retreat = “to leave in haste; depart hastily”]

In this piece articles are in bold. They are 'a', 'an', and 'the' — these three words are called Articles. You will see that the article 'A' is always followed by a word beginning with a consonant or sound of a consonant, while 'An' is always followed by a word beginning with a vowel or a sound of a vowel. These two words (‘a’ and ‘an’) are called ‘Indefinite Articles’, because they are used with meaning of a certain one or any (every).

A certain one = a dangerous animal = a certain one from animals.
"A lion is a dangerous animal" = Any lion is a dangerous animal; Every lion is a dangerous animal.

The’ is called the ‘Definite Article’ because it is used with particular objects already mentioned or known or the only one.

Now, notice that if we change some of these articles from definite to indefinite, or from indefinite to definite, the meaning of the nouns becomes different in peculiar ways. Thus in the first line if we were to change “a hawker” to "the hawker" the word would imply that we already knew him or knew about him. "To set the dog on" implies that there is only one dog kept; "to set a dog on" would imply that there were more dogs than one kept.

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