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definite article weirdness

asked 2019-03-08 02:04:20 -0500

woctor gravatar image

Why do we use the definite article in sentences like "That's the wrong way to do it"? There are almost always multiple ways to do something wrong, so it seems to me that "That's a wrong way to do it" would make more sense.

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answered 2019-03-29 12:18:28 -0500

Gerard Cheshire gravatar image

Yes - you are correct. Unless, of course, there are only two ways of doing something - such as turning a handle, or a lid, or a screw, or a bolt, or a key, or a tap, or a steering wheel, or a drill, or a pencil in a sharpener and so on. Also, it might be better to push something rather than pull it. Or, lift something with a straight back rather than a bent back............. I'm sure there are plenty of other binary example.

That is probably why the definite article is often used - as it saves having to think about whether there are two or more ways, by presuming their are just two.

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Asked: 2019-03-08 02:04:20 -0500

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Last updated: Mar 29 '19