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Hello! Please consider the following passage:

There are many problems with our public education system. (a) First, there is a problem of government funding for schools. (b) First, there is the problem of government funding for schools.

1. Are both variants appropriate there?

2. A bit of a theoretical question: The usually marks discourse-old information or topic/theme. Can a definite noun phrase after there is function as the comment/rheme of a sentence?

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Hi, Alexey,

@alexey-86 posted:

There are many problems with our public education system. (a) First, there is a problem of government funding for schools. (b) First, there is the problem of government funding for schools.

1. Are both variants appropriate there?

I find (b) to be more appropriate because of the preposition "of." The indefinite article would sound better with "with":

(a) First, there is a problem with government funding for schools.

@alexey-86 posted:

2. A bit of a theoretical question: The usually marks discourse-old information or topic/theme. Can a definite noun phrase after there is function as the comment/rheme of a sentence?

Yes, it can. This must be actually the only case I know of where "there" can anticipate a defined noun phrase, and this only occurs with enumerations.

Last edited by Gustavo, Co-Moderator

Thank you, Gustavo!

(a) First, there is a problem with government funding for schools.

Your variant is more logical because mine might sound as if government funding itself is a problem. I would change it to "the problem of inadequate school funding".

Yes, it can. This must be actually the only case I know of where "there" can anticipate a defined noun phrase, and this only occurs with enumerations.

Does it mean that if I change "first" to "for example" I should use "a problem of"?

Here's a passage from The New York Times:
"While food safety issues should be addressed, some scientists say, the bigger concern is the environmental threats posed by genetically modified animals like the salmon.

A recent study showed, for example, that populations of wild fish could, in theory, be wiped out by mating with certain kinds of genetically engineered fish, should they escape.

In addition, there is the possibility of unpredictable environmental disruptions, like those that occur when non-native species invade ecosystems, as the zebra mussels have the Hudson River."

There is no enumeration there. Does it look correct to you?

Last edited by alexey-86
@alexey-86 posted:

(a) First, there is a problem with government funding for schools.

Your variant is more logical because mine might sound as if government funding itself is a problem. I would change it to "the problem of inadequate school funding".

Actually, I find some inconsistency between "a problem," which is indefinite, and "of government funding for schools," which defines the noun. "The problem of government funding for schools" is a well-defined noun phrase, hence the use of the definite article. I think "with" sounds better if you want to use "a problem."

@alexey-86 posted:

Yes, it can. This must be actually the only case I know of where "there" can anticipate a defined noun phrase, and this only occurs with enumerations.

Does it mean that if I change "first" to "for example" I should use "a problem of"?

Perhaps "enumeration" was not the best word to reflect the idea I wanted to convey. Perhaps "presentation" would be more accurate, the idea being that what follows poses the idea you want to express. Even with "for example" I'd use "there is the problem of government funding" (or "there is a problem with government funding").

@alexey-86 posted:

Here's a passage from The New York Times:
"While food safety issues should be addressed, some scientists say, the bigger concern is the environmental threats posed by genetically modified animals like the salmon.

A recent study showed, for example, that populations of wild fish could, in theory, be wiped out by mating with certain kinds of genetically engineered fish, should they escape.

In addition, there is the possibility of unpredictable environmental disruptions, like those that occur when non-native species invade ecosystems, as the zebra mussels have the Hudson River."

There is no enumeration there. Does it look correct to you?

Yes, that sentence is correct. Since we cannot idiomatically say something like:

- Additionally, the possibility of unpredictable environmental disruptions exists.

English grammar enables us to say:

- Additionally, there is the possibility of unpredictable environmental disruptions.

where "there" anticipates a rather long but defined subject.

Last edited by Gustavo, Co-Moderator

"The problem of government funding for schools" is a well-defined noun phrase, hence the use of the definite article.

I found examples that look well-defined but take the indefinite article:

1) He said that witnesses in past cases will also need to be reassured if appeals are lodged. "In an appeal, there is a possibility of anonymity being challenged by defence lawyers. We have made promises to people and are determined to keep them."

2) Several limitations should be taken into account when interpreting the results of this study. Firstly, the prevalence of comorbidities was assessed by diagnostic coding in an administrative claims database, and reporting bias may be present due to either over-reporting or under-reporting of the disease. Secondly, there is also a possibility of reporting bias due to our sampling method.

Don't they look well-defined to you? What article should I use when I have a well-defined NP after "there is" that introduces discourse-new information?

Last edited by alexey-86

I understand your confusion. Let's see if this helps. Saying "there is the problem of ... / there is the possibility of ..." sounds like "we have the problem of ... / the possibility of ..."

From a discursive point of view, both articles can work and are often interchangeable, but with "the" it sounds as if the issue being presented is already known.

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