Hello,

I have been trying to find a rule or pattern that determines whether you use the in sentences that are followed by prepositional phrases that start with of.

e.g 1  I can't pronounce the names of fruit, cakes and vegetables .

e.g 2  I can't pronounce names -- of fruit,cakes and vegetables.

Which example is correct and why?  Both sound natural to me.

Thank you for your help

Last edited by Gustavo, Contributor
Original Post

Hi, Mrchuffie,

@Mrchuffie posted:

I have been trying to find a rule or pattern that determines whether you use the in sentences that are followed by prepositional phrases that start with of.

e.g 1  I can't pronounce the names of fruit, cakes and vegetables .

e.g 2  I can't pronounce names -- of fruit,cakes and vegetables.

Which example is correct and why?  Both sound natural to me.

I think we have to agree that both sentences are somewhat strange from a semantic point of view. Grammatically speaking, e.g. 1 is correct while e.g. 2 is not because of the dash between "names" and "of fruit, etc."

If we eliminate the incorrect dash, the difference between both examples is that (1) refers to all of the names of fruit, cakes and vegetables (or to the names of all fruit, cakes and vegetables), while the notion of totality is not so clear in (2).

With of-phrases, the definite article will tend to be mandatory when the noun within the prepositional phrase is well-defined. Please compare:

3. Tell me the names of your friends.
4. Tell me names of GE members.

While in (3) you are supposed to have a limited number of friends, whose names you obviously know, in (4) you are merely asked to say the names of some GE members.

Thank you .  The gap/hyphen in example 2 was supposed to represent a zero article.  Sorry for that.

Just so that I am clear, is it true to say that when the of-phrase is specific then we use the and when it's general we don't?

I don't really understand what you mean when you say: the definite article will tend to be mandatory when the noun within the prepositional phrase is well-defined. 

I would be grateful if you could please giving me a couple more examples. and also is the use of the or the zero article anything to do with whether or not the noun that follows i.e names or is its use governed by the of-phrase entirely.

Thank you again.

 

@Mrchuffie posted:

I don't really understand what you mean when you say: the definite article will tend to be mandatory when the noun within the prepositional phrase is well-defined.

Your group of friends is well-defined and limited, and most probably known by you. The list of GE users is not.

Another pair of examples:

- Tell me the names of the countries you know.
- Tell me names of countries.

Last edited by Gustavo, Contributor

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