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the definite article in a sentence Options
maltliquor87
Posted: Friday, October 5, 2018 5:43:39 AM

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Location: Moscow, Moscow, Russia
Hello, dear forum members.

Not so long ago I saw the following exchange on twitter between two native speakers. The part most relevant to my question is in italics.

Quote:
-Have handled many SCOTUS nominations, from WH & Senate side. Have NEVER seen a nominee make a partisan attack. There’s a lot to be concerned about w/this nomination, but let’s not lose sight of this: You can’t be impartial umpire on court if you’re already rooting for a team
-How many nominations have you handled where the nominee was expected to remain calm when asked about the rape gangs he didn’t organize?


Obviously, they were talking about Brett Kavanaugh's nomination, but my question is about grammar. Is the definite article in bold used appropriately? Would it be grammatically correct to omit it? I'm puzzled. My current understanding is that in this context the use of the definite article implies, though it may not be the author's intention, that he organized other gangs, but in the discussion at hand we're narrowing down their number to include only those he didn't organize.
thar
Posted: Friday, October 5, 2018 6:12:43 AM

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Yes, it fits here because it is specifying an instance. The rape gangs that he organised. Those specific ones.

Without the article,
1- it loses its punch, becoming more general

and

2 - it actually implies more that they happened.

asking about 'the gangs that he organised' includes questioning if they ever happened. Did these gangs exist?

asking about 'rape gangs he organised' does assume more that they happened, and you are asking about them, like how often or how violent. Gangs exist. What happened at these gangs - gangs that he organised.

(I am using 'gangs' because it is the last noun. This is strange phrasing but I am going with it because, as you say, this is about general grammar not a particular example.I even wonder if they mean gang rapes, or if rape gangs is an idiom in their speech. But to me, you can't arrange a gang.)


It is very difficult, but 'the' makes it specific here, not about an instance of a common thing.

You could omit it, and the meaning would be the same. The 'the' just gives it that extra specificity.
maltliquor87
Posted: Friday, October 5, 2018 6:20:00 AM

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Location: Moscow, Moscow, Russia
Thar, thanks a lot.

But in the original sentence the author wrote "the rape gangs he didn't organize". He's implying that the nominee Brett Kavanaugh is mistakenly accused of organizing rape gangs.

Does the "didn't" part change anything?
thar
Posted: Friday, October 5, 2018 6:37:07 AM

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No, because that is separate. I ignored it for simplicity.

That is only negating part - he did or he didn't organise something.

The article making it specific works the same in both instances.

This particular way of saying it is saying there were no gangs, but adding the article still ties it to a specific instance related to him, rather than a general idea.

The gangs he organised
the gangs he didn't organise

'the gangs' are the same. The use of the negative saying no such things ever existed doesn't actually change that.
maltliquor87
Posted: Friday, October 5, 2018 6:39:28 AM

Rank: Advanced Member

Joined: 11/29/2017
Posts: 159
Neurons: 59,463
Location: Moscow, Moscow, Russia
That's clear. Thanks!
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