The Use of Articles with Class Nouns Modified by Attributes
In accordance with their role in the choice of articles attributes may be divided into particularizing (or limiting) and descriptive.
A particularizing attribute is used to single out an object from all the objects of the class, to point out one particular object or group of objects. The use of a particularizing attribute implies the idea of “òîé, ÿêèé”; “ñàìå òîé, òîé ñàìèé”. It makes the noun definite. So the definite article is used with this kind of attribute.
A particularizing attribute can be expressed:
· by prepositional phrase
The only way to learn the price of something is to pay for it.
The reason for this selection is obvious.
· by an of-phrase (with certain nouns which refer to a part or characteristic of something)
Look at picture 5 at the top of page 43.
We met at the end of 1980.
He knocked at the door of a very neat house.
· by relative clause
What about the argument that reality isn’t like that?
I want to get back to the hotel where he was staying.
· by clauses with non-finite verbs (Infinitives or participles)
“May be he is the man to ask about work,” she thought.
· by apposition (using a noun group to qualify another)
And he wrote a book with the titles”The Summing Up”
· by nouns in the genitive case
He worked abroad. The two years’ stay in France changed him a lot.
A descriptive attribute is used to describe an object or to give some additional information about it. This kind of attribute does not single out an object (or a group of objects) but only narrows the class to which it belongs.
He wrote a novel.
He wrote a good novel.
He wrote a good historical novel.
In a fortnight I got a long letter, which I considered odd.
Nouns modified by descriptive attributes may be used with either the indefinite or the definite articles, as the choice of articles for countable nouns is not affected by this kind of attribute. As all adjectives taken by themselves are neutral, it is only in the context that they acquire particularizing or descriptive force.
He was going to build a new house.
Shortly after he moved to the new house, he fell ill.
Modification by nouns in the genitive case
The use of articles with nouns in the genitive case is accounted for by the element of the combination to which it refers.
1. The article which refers to the noun in the genitive case is chosen in accordance with the general rules.
the boy’sthe boys’a boy’sboys’Robert’s
The articles here refer to the noun boy’s which together with the article is a determiner to the noun books.
Note When the noun in the genitive case is a proper name, there is naturally no article.
2. When an attribute is expressed by a noun in the genitive case it refers to the head-noun, as in a women’s college, a children’s hospital, a doctor’s degree, widow’s weeds, a doll’s house, cow’s milk, lady’s clothes, etc. It is important to note that such combinations cannot be substituted for by of-phrase.The article for the head-noun is chosen in accordance with the general rules.
Is there a girls’ school in this area?
“I’m looking for the girls’ school”, she said, “that used to be here when I was a child”.
Girls’ schools are not popular nowadays.
As the article in the examples above refers to the head noun, the noun in the genitive case may have the plural form and yet be preceded by the indefinite article, as in a soldiers’ canteen, a three miles’ walk, a fifteen minutes’ break.
A noun in the genitive case used as a descriptive attribute is not a determiner; it may be preceded by other attributes also referring to the head- noun.
They gave the girl a beautiful doll’s house as a birthday present.
The expensive widow’s weeds only emphasized her prettiness.
Modification by prepositional phrases
The use of articles modified by prepositional phrases depends on the context or the situation. It consists of a preposition followed by a noun (at the window, for his children). A prepositional phrase may be used as a limiting or a descriptive attribute:
She seated herself so that I could see the man at the screen very well.
From one of the bookshelves Julia took a bundle of her latest photographs.
I made plans to put up two or three hotels and bungalows for occasional residents.
A prepositional phrase may contain various prepositions, but special consideration should be given to the so-called of-phrase. The main meanings of structures with descriptive of-phrases are as follows:
· a container with its contents: a box of matches, a cup of tea; a pot of coffee
(Compare with a matchbox, a tea-cup, a coffee-pot, a soup bowl, etc., which are used for empty containers.)
· a certain quantity: a lump of sugar, a slice of lemon, a pinch of salt
· measure: a temperature of 20° C, a height of two hundred metres, a weight of two pounds, a distance of three miles, a pound of butter
· origin: a native of Wales, a man of Kent, a descendant of a good family
· characteristics of an object: a woman of great charm, a man of courage, a question of importance, a matter of urgency
· age: a man of middle age, a boy of five
· material a thing is made of: a box of cedar wood, a coat of mail, a heart of gold (metaphorical use)
Note In modern English the of-phrase is rarely used to denote material. As a rule we find an attributive noun in preposition to the head-noun in this meaning: older English, modern English; a ring of gold - a gold ring; a wall of glass - a glass wall.
· composition: a herd of deer, a crowd of people, a flock of birds
· two objects of the same kind or an object consisting of two parts of the same kind: a pair of gloves, a couple of apples, a pair of trousers
· indication of implied analogy: a beast of a man (i.e. a man behaving like a beast), a peach of a girl (i.e. a girl as beautiful and fresh as a peach), a gem of a housekeeper, a fool of a woman
The of-phrase is a descriptive attribute in a construction called "the double genitive" as it contains the of-genitive and the s-genitive: a friend of my brother's, a daughter of Mr. Parker's, an opera of Verdi's, a sonata of Britten's
Nouns modified by a descriptive of-phrase usually take the indefinite article, but the definite article may be also used.
The of-phrase may have a limiting force as well. In this case the head-noun is used with the definite article. Mark the most typical kinds of structures with limiting of-phrases: the city of Chicago, the sound of the bell, the figure of a man, the position of a teacher, the foot of the hill, the bank of the river, the wife of the local doctor, the number (i.e. the total quantity) of people, the shadow of a tree, the shot of a gun, the face of a woman, the manager of a hotel, the edge of the table, the story of his life
But if there are many objects of the same description, the indefinite article is used: a member of the club, a student of the group, a leg of the table.