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Author Topic: Determiners (the, her, etc.)
EmmaSohan
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My project for the last month has been determiners. But I am stuck inside my own head with my own opinions. Did you want to help?

The idea is for you to take a page of writing, yours or someone else's, and carefully consider every determiner and consider the alternatives. The main choices:

1. the car
2. a car (or an, of course)
3. possessives: his car, her car, etc.
4. Demonstratives: that car, this car.

No one makes obvious mistakes (a cars), but I can usually find suboptimal choices. Probably the most common mistake, IN MY OPINION, is using "the" instead of a possessive.

As far as I KNOW (same problem!), this is the only way to get really good at determiners, though a page would not be enough. So it's a good exercise.

So, do you find suboptimal determiners? What are they, which is to say, what do you like and dislike?

Thanks!

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EmmaSohan
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Small print.

"The car" --> "the cars", but "a car" --> "cars"). (Or it can be "some cars".) So the article a disappears, but it still has the same meaning.

So, technically, when a plural or mass noun doesn't have an article, the other choices are sill the, possessives, those/these, and the quantifiers (some, many, etc.)

Same problem the other way, one of the alternatives to "the cars" is just "cars."

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EmmaSohan
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Hmm, maybe I'm using the wrong bait.

quote:
Her tutor woke her well before dawn. Patience felt the chill of the morning through her thin blanket, and her muscles were stiff from sleeping on a hard mat on the floor (Wyrms, OSC, start)
Strange, right? Though I admit I noticed nothing until examining each determiner: Her tutor, the chill, the morning, her thin blanket, her muscles, the floor. And a hard mat?!

Where did "A hard mat" come from? The or her were best for all of the others and not for that?

I've tried various spells to make the author appear, and they never work. I think there is a strategy of variety, where an author doesn't want to use the same determiner too many times in the same sentence. Maybe that's what was happening here.

I wouldn't use that strategy, but I suspect some authors do.

Or maybe it's BRILLIANT! The refers to a particular hard mat with all of it's features, like color. Meanwhile a refers to hard mats in the abstract, which would put a focus on those abstract properties. Card has, for a moment, stepped away from describing the scene (her hard mat) and helped the reader think about Patience sleeping on a hard mat.

Or, you know, he got tired of typing her and the.

What do you think?

[ November 04, 2019, 12:23 PM: Message edited by: EmmaSohan ]

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Maggie
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Her tutor woke her well before dawn. Patience felt the chill of the morning through her thin blanket, and her muscles were stiff from sleeping on a hard mat on the floor.

.

I'm not sure if I understand what you mean by "make the author work".

Firstly, I would break up the second sentence.

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EmmaSohan
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Yes, but would you have used those determiners?

Patience felt the chill of the morning through her thin blanket, and her muscles were stiff from sleeping on a hard mat on the floor.

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Kathleen Dalton Woodbury
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One way to "make the author work" is to ask the author to think about word choices.

Writing can be something you just "spill" onto the page, but if you are willing to think about what you are spilling and what it might actually mean and/or convey to the reader, you can achieve better effect with your words.

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Reziac
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quote:
Originally posted by EmmaSohan:
Yes, but would you have used those determiners?

Patience felt the chill of the morning through her thin blanket, and her muscles were stiff from sleeping on a hard mat on the floor.

Yes. These are all correct. Also, while generally "the" means a specific item, and "a" means any member of a class of items -- this is an area where sounding natural and invisible beats hell out of any sort of rules.

So: the chill, because it's immediate and now. The morning, because it's this morning, not some random morning. Her blanket, because it's her only defense from the chill and therefore specific. Her muscles, cuz whose else would they be? A hard mat, because she doesn't want anything to do with the damn mat so the more distant it's made to be, the better.

Also, "a hard mat" implies that such mats are normal things to sleep on, at least for peasants and prisoners (implying that she is not a peasant and not using it of her own free will). "The hard mat" would imply that this is a one of a kind mat and no one else ever suffers such indignities.

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