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about the usage of a definite article in "in the east" and "to the



 
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about the usage of a definite article in "in the east" and "to the #1 (permalink) Mon May 22, 2017 1:57 am   about the usage of a definite article in "in the east" and "to the
 

I'd appreciate it if someone would answer my question. Thanks in advance.

A: Seattle is to the north of San Francisco.

B: The sun rises in the east.

As in the above 2 sentences, direction names are followed by "the".
I'd like to know the reason.

Let me explain.
I cite from Social Science 2; "When you face north, east is to your right, and west is to your left-----"
From this description, I think it's clear that each direction has a specific mutual relationship. Of course, these are cardinal points and are quite abstract, so articles aren't used.
However, when used in a real life with things on the earth, in the world, in our society, and in our everyday life, they are no longer used as cardinal points.
Now north, south, east and west are concrete directions related to our real life. And due to the specific mutual relationship above mentioned, "the" must be used; the north, the south, the east, and the west.
Is my explanation right?
Magic Dragon
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Joined: 03 May 2009
Posts: 191

about the usage of a definite article in "in the east" and "to the #2 (permalink) Mon May 22, 2017 9:37 am   about the usage of a definite article in "in the east" and "to the
 

I think your examples just follow the rule:

“If a direction (north, west, southeast, left, right) directly follows a verb, do not use an article with the direction.
Examples: We need to walk south. They drove north all day. At the stop sign, turn left and walk three blocks.
HOWEVER: If a direction follows a preposition, you must use THE.
Examples: We need to walk to the south. Our house is in the north. The grocery store is on the right”
http://englishpage.com/articles/advanced-articles.htm
Eugene2114
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Joined: 22 Dec 2010
Posts: 2998

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about the usage of a definite article in "in the east" and "to the #3 (permalink) Mon May 22, 2017 9:59 am   about the usage of a definite article in "in the east" and "to the
 

Thank you Eugene. I understand the rule. Your explanation seems to be that when used as a noun, directions need "the". What I'd like to know is why directions need "the" when used as a noun.
Magic Dragon
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Joined: 03 May 2009
Posts: 191

about the usage of a definite article in "in the east" and "to the #4 (permalink) Mon May 22, 2017 12:17 pm   about the usage of a definite article in "in the east" and "to the
 

Magic Dragon wrote:
I'd like to know ... why directions need "the" when used as a noun.

In another words, what does English have articles for? Can’t dig that deep: many languages just manage to survive without any articles at all.
Eugene2114
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Joined: 22 Dec 2010
Posts: 2998

about the usage of a definite article in "in the east" and "to the #5 (permalink) Mon May 22, 2017 14:54 pm   about the usage of a definite article in "in the east" and "to the
 

Eugene2114 wrote:
I think your examples just follow the rule:

“If a direction (north, west, southeast, left, right) directly follows a verb, do not use an article with the direction.
Examples: We need to walk south. They drove north all day. At the stop sign, turn left and walk three blocks.
HOWEVER: If a direction follows a preposition, you must use THE.
Examples: We need to walk to the south. Our house is in the north. The grocery store is on the right”
http://englishpage.com/articles/advanced-articles.htm

I will try to dig just a bit deeper than Eugene, but I agree with him that English seems very hung up on articles - differentiating between particular things and general things - but that is a quirk one has to get used to in order to master English.

For Eugene's rules, here if a direction immediately follows a verb, the direction is acting like an adverb - walk how? walk north. And only nouns take articles, so here an article is not used. If a direction follows a preposition, the direction is a noun, since only nouns (and pronouns) can be objects. And there is only one north, there are not two norths, so "the", and not "a" must be used.

Of course, your original example throws a monkey wrench into my elegant explanation - :p

"When you face north , ..." - here north is acting like an adverb, so no article.

"... east is to your right and west is to your left" - here east and west must be nouns, but no articles :( I think your explanation that these directions are abstract terms makes sense, but maybe it is just that directions do not take articles when they are subjects. I can't think of an example where a direction acting as a subject takes an article.
Luschen
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Joined: 08 Apr 2011
Posts: 8541
Location: Nashville TN, USA

about the usage of a definite article in "in the east" and "to the #6 (permalink) Mon May 22, 2017 14:54 pm   about the usage of a definite article in "in the east" and "to the
 

Eugene2114 wrote:
I think your examples just follow the rule:

“If a direction (north, west, southeast, left, right) directly follows a verb, do not use an article with the direction.
Examples: We need to walk south. They drove north all day. At the stop sign, turn left and walk three blocks.
HOWEVER: If a direction follows a preposition, you must use THE.
Examples: We need to walk to the south. Our house is in the north. The grocery store is on the right”
http://englishpage.com/articles/advanced-articles.htm

I will try to dig just a bit deeper than Eugene, but I agree with him that English seems very hung up on articles - differentiating between particular things and general things - but that is a quirk one has to get used to in order to master English.

For Eugene's rules, here if a direction immediately follows a verb, the direction is acting like an adverb - walk how? walk north. And only nouns take articles, so here an article is not used. If a direction follows a preposition, the direction is a noun, since only nouns (and pronouns) can be objects. And there is only one north, there are not two norths, so "the", and not "a" must be used.

Of course, your original example throws a monkey wrench into my elegant explanation - :p

"When you face north , ..." - here north is acting like an adverb, so no article.

"... east is to your right and west is to your left" - here east and west must be nouns, but no articles :( I think your explanation that these directions are abstract terms makes sense, but maybe it is just that directions do not take articles when they are subjects. I can't think of an example where a direction acting as a subject takes an article.
Luschen
I'm a Communicator ;-)


Joined: 08 Apr 2011
Posts: 8541
Location: Nashville TN, USA

about the usage of a definite article in "in the east" and "to the #7 (permalink) Tue May 23, 2017 10:21 am   about the usage of a definite article in "in the east" and "to the
 

Thank you Luschen.
You said; "And there is only one north, there are not two norths, so "the", and not "a" must be used." You are right, but I think there is something to be added supplementarily.

Except when used as cardinal points, I think directions in a sentence make sense when you make clear a reference point.
The reference point in A is San Francisco, and in B it is a person (anybody) on the earth.
With a specific reference point, directions are specifyzed. The relation between a direction and its reference point seems to be indicated by prepositions such as "to", "in", "on" ("to the north" in A, and "in the east" in B).
Is my supplementary comment right and necessary?
Magic Dragon
I'm here quite often ;-)


Joined: 03 May 2009
Posts: 191

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