“This year is the year of the Rat”. There are many years of the Rat, 2008, 1996, 1984, this year being only one of many possible years of the Rat. Why don’t we say “This year is a year of the Rat”? Why “the”, not “a”?

Original Post

Hi, PJ,

"the year of the Rat" forms part of a cycle and, as such, the use of the definite article is fine. Within a Chinese zodiac cycle, you have the year of the Rat, the year of the Ox, the year of the Tiger, the year of the Rabbit, the year of the Dragon, the year of the Snake, the year of the Horse, the year of the Goat, the year of the Monkey, the year of the Rooster, the year of the Dog, and the year of the Pig. (Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rat_(zodiac)).

The same applies to similar cases, e.g. the first quarter (of 2020). You would never say "a first quarter" because 2020 only has one first quarter, just as this zodiac cycle has only one year of the Rat.

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