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a birthday vs. the birthday



 
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a birthday vs. the birthday #1 (permalink) Mon Feb 19, 2007 11:39 am   a birthday vs. the birthday
 

English Grammar Tests, Elementary Level

ESL/EFL Test #98 "Articles in English Grammar", question 9

Can you please help me pick out ......... birthday present for my father?

(a) a
(b) an
(c) the

English Grammar Tests, Elementary Level

ESL/EFL Test #98 "Articles in English Grammar", answer 9

Can you please help me pick out a birthday present for my father?

Correct answer: (a) a

Your answer was: incorrect
Can you please help me pick out the birthday present for my father?
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when we should use the article "the"?

Valery
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When to use 'the' #2 (permalink) Tue Feb 20, 2007 6:57 am   When to use 'the'
 

Hello,
Generally, you should use 'the' when the speaker and the listener are both familiar with the specific subject. For example, when a speaker introduces a subject 'a' is used at first. Once introduced, 'the' is used.
Example) I have a cat and a dog. The dog is four-years-old and the cat is two-years-old.
In this question, neither the speaker or the listener know about the specific subject (the present) because only the idea of a gift exists at this point. That's why she asks her friend to help her pick out 'a' gift for her father.
Take care.
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hyphens? #3 (permalink) Sun Mar 04, 2007 13:01 pm   hyphens?
 

Linda wrote:
The dog is four-years-old and the cat is two-years-old.

I'm curious about the hyphens. Is that Canadian usage or just a couple of typos?
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a birthday vs. the birthday #4 (permalink) Mon Mar 05, 2007 6:10 am   a birthday vs. the birthday
 

Linda wrote:
In this question, neither the speaker or the listener know about the specific subject

Hi

Could you please tell me if we may use "or" here or is it just a typo?

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Hyphens #5 (permalink) Mon Mar 05, 2007 6:11 am   Hyphens
 

Hi Amy,
When I was a journalist in Canada, one of the page setters I worked with preferred hyphens in sentences that contained ages such as "He was four-years-old." I checked all forms (with or without hyphens) in Microsoft Word and they allow all forms. I'm not sure if it's a Canadian thing or not. Old habit, I suppose.
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a birthday vs. the birthday #6 (permalink) Mon Mar 05, 2007 6:14 am   a birthday vs. the birthday
 

Hi Tom,
That is a typo. It should read "nor" in this case.
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a birthday vs. the birthday #7 (permalink) Mon Mar 05, 2007 14:04 pm   a birthday vs. the birthday
 

MS Word allows (and complains about) a lot of interesting things.
Just try this sentence out:

The founder of Microsoft is bill-gates.

Neither my MS Word grammar checker nor the spell checker objected to anything at all in the sentence above.

MS Word also accepts:
The founder of Microsoft is bill-green.

However, if I change the hyphenated word to george-washington (The founder of Microsoft is george-washington.),
then the MS spell checker springs into gear, underlines the word george-washington and suggests that George Washington would make the sentence correct. :shock:
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Hyphens #8 (permalink) Mon Mar 05, 2007 18:00 pm   Hyphens
 

Well, that's very interesting that Microsoft Word would allow something like that. Anyway, as far as my response to the student, I don't think it's a big deal and I think using hyphens between ages is more about personal preference than anything but thanks for the input about Word.
Take care.
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hyphens? #9 (permalink) Mon Mar 05, 2007 20:00 pm   hyphens?
 

Yankee wrote:
Linda wrote:
The dog is four-years-old and the cat is two-years-old.

I'm curious about the hyphens. Is that Canadian usage or just a couple of typos?

Since this is a site that caters to test takers, it is worth clarifying something for which a test taker might receive points off on a standardized test.

I asked whether that was a typo or possibly Canadian usage because I can't recall ever having run into that particular sort of hyphenation before -- not in AmE, and not in BE, and never in any grammar book. To be honest, that sort of hyphenation looks like either a typo or an error that a learner might make.

If you can find a source that validates your hyphen usage as an accepted option, I'd be very interested in seeing that.


I know the hyphen usage ("rules") for age this way:

The dog is four years old. (No hyphens.)

It is a four-year-old dog. ("It is+article+hyphented adjective+noun." The word 'year' is singular.)

The four dogs are each one year old.

The four year-old dogs are adorable. (The word 'four'=the number of dogs, and each of the four dogs is one year old.)

Adjectives such as these can also function as nouns:
There are 22 five-year-olds in the kindergarten class. (There are 22 children in the class and each one is five years old.)

This has nothing to do with my personal preference but rather with standard English.

Amy
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Hyphens #10 (permalink) Tue Mar 06, 2007 1:17 am   Hyphens
 

Hi Amy,
The page setter must have been wrong. You are right and thanks for catching that. Hyphens should be used in statements such as "It is a four-year-old dog" and in the other examples you listed. I always thought hyphens were a preference in statements such as "The dog is four years old" but I looked into it today and that's not the case.
Just as an aside, some English native speakers like to use hyphens whenever they can (I've seen it many times) so hyphen errors are not limited to English learners.
Linda
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Hyphens #11 (permalink) Tue Mar 06, 2007 1:41 am   Hyphens
 

Hi Amy,
I just thought I'd add to the last comment and I thought you would find this interesting. On the website www.askoxford.com (that belongs to Oxford Dictionaries I'm assuming) they wrote:

"When is it correct to use a hyphen?"

"Hyphenation in English is highly variable, and in many contexts, it really doesn't matter. The Fowler brothers, first editors of the Concise Oxford Dictionary, wrote in their preface to the 1911 edition:

We have also to admit that after trying hard at an early stage to arrive at some principle that should teach us when to separate, when to hyphen, and when to unite the parts of compound words, we had to abandon the attempt as hopeless, and welter in the prevailing chaos.
The places where it does matter are summarized in the Oxford Pocket Fowler's Modern English Usage (2004), the most important being:

-to make clear the unifying of the sense in compound expressions such as punch-drunk, cost-benefit analysis, or weight-carrying, or compounds in attributive use (that is, in front of the noun), as in an up-to-date list or the well-known performer;
-to join a prefix to a proper name (e.g. anti-Darwinian);
-to avoid misunderstanding by distinguishing phrases such as twenty-odd people and twenty odd people, or a third-world conflict and a third world conflict;
-to clarify the use of a prefix, as in recovering from an illness and re-covering an umbrella;
-to clarify compounds with similar adjacent sounds, such as sword-dance, co-opt, tool-like.
-to represent the use of a common element in a list of compounds, such as four-, six-, and eight-legged animals.
-in dividing a word across a line-break. Guidance on word division is given in reference books such as the Oxford Colour Spelling Dictionary (1996)."

I know there have been a lot of disagreements about hyphen usage throughout the ages so I thought you and some students may find this excerpt interesting.
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