"A" vs "The"

Hi there, What is the difference between and The in the following sentences?

  1. No other animal is as tall as a/the giraffe.
  2. A/The Inland Taipan's venom is the most venomous one in the world.

My grammar book says when we want to talk about a race or a whole class we use the. But still I am unable to decide or the which one I should use. Can any please explain the meaning of each of the sentences using and the. And which one do you think is more appropriate?

Original Post

My grammar book says when we want to talk about a race or a whole class we use the.

I think I agree, Subhajit.

When speaking generically, though, the plural and the singular preceded by the indefinite article are preferred, in that order. The singular will be more usual when reference is made to any individual member of the group.

Giraffes are the tallest animals on earth.

A giraffe can eat 30 kg of leaves per day.

Inland taipans are extremely dangerous.

An inland taipan can kill as many as 100 people with its venom.

In your sentences (1) and (2) above, I think "the" works well.

subhajit123 posted:
  1. No other animal is as tall as a/the giraffe.
  2. A/The Inland Taipan's venom is the most venomous one in the world.

Hi, Subhajit,

I agree with Gustavo that "the" is the better choice in those sentences and others like them. I do have a problem with (2), though. Did you mean to say that its venom is the most poisonous venom in the world?

It doesn't make sense, except perhaps as a (weak) joke, to say that a particular animal's venom is the most venomous venom in the world. It's kind of like saying that a particular kind of juice is the juiciest juice there is.

Regarding (1), the indefinite article could be said to give a different meaning. Suppose dinosaurs still existed and you had a particular one in mind. You might say that no other animal (besides that dinosaur) is as tall as a giraffe.

dinosaurgiraffe

Compare:

(A) No other animal (besides the blue whale) is as big as a 747 jet airplane.*

But if we assume that "other" takes "giraffe" as its antecedent in (1), as seems likely in our contextual vacuum, then "the" is better. The sentence means: "The giraffe is the tallest animal in the world."

------------
*footnote: I just made that up for grammar's sake. I have no idea whether a blue whale typically reaches the size of a 747. I wouldn't be surprised if blue whales tend to be even bigger than 747s.

747blue whale

Attachments

Photos (4)

David,

[Our] juice is the juiciest juice there is.

I'm actually surprised that I haven't seen this used as an advertising slogan.

For what it's worth, a Boeing 747 is 185 feet long with a cabin width of 20 feet.  The biggest blue whale whose size was verified was only 98 feet long.  I couldn't find any statistics about the width.

DocV

Add Reply

Likes (0)
×
×
×
×