Definite article

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A definite article indicates that its noun is a particular one which is identifiable to the listener. It may be something that the speaker has already mentioned, or it may be something uniquely specified. The definite article in English, for both singular and plural nouns, is the.

The children know the fastest way home.

The sentence above refers to specific children and a specific way home; it contrasts with the much more general observation that:

Children know the fastest ways home.

The latter sentence refers to children in general and their specific ways home. Likewise,

Give me the book.

refers to a specific book whose identity is known or obvious to the listener; as such it has a markedly different meaning from

Give me a book.

which does not specify what book is to be given.

The definite article can also be used in English to indicate a specific class among other classes:

The cabbage white butterfly lays its eggs on members of the Brassica genus.

However, recent developments show that definite articles are morphological elements linked to certain noun types due to lexicalization. Under this point of view, definiteness does not play a role in the selection of a definite article more than the lexical entry attached to the article.

The definite article is sometimes also used with proper names, which are already specified by definition (there is just one of them). For example: the Amazon, the Hebrides. In these cases, the definite article may be considered superfluous. Its presence can be accounted for by the assumption that they are shorthand for a longer phrase in which the name is a specifier, i.e. the Amazon River, the Hebridean Islands. Where the nouns in such longer phrases cannot be omitted, the definite article is universally kept: the United States, the People's Republic of China. This distinction can sometimes become a political matter: the former usage the Ukraine stressed the word's Russian meaning of "borderlands"; as Ukraine became a fully independent state following the collapse of the Soviet Union, it requested formal mentions of its name omit the article. Similar shifts in usage have occurred in the names of Sudan and both Congo (Brazzaville) and (Kinshasa); a move in the other direction occurred with The Gambia.

Some languages also use definite articles with personal names. For example, such use is standard in Portuguese: a Maria, literally: "the Maria" [but this is not possible in Hindi names such as "the Sandeep," " a Sandeep". It also occurs colloquially in Spanish, German and other languages, and is sometimes heard in Italian. In Hungary it is considered to be a Germanism

Definite articles are not used the same way in Greek as they are in English. No Bible translation translates the Greek definite articles

The Definite Article in Greek

Dana and Mantey's "A Manual Grammar of the Greek New Testament", p. 150-151. says:

“It is important to bear in mind that we cannot determine the English translation by the presence or absence of the article in Greek. Sometimes we should use the article in the English translation when it is not used in the Greek, and sometimes the idiomatic force of the Greek article may best be rendered by an anarthrous noun in English.”

KJV Today

In the article by KJV Today "Does the KJV fail to translate the Greek article properly?" it says:

It is often alleged that the KJV erroneously translates the Greek definite article (ο, η, τό) as an English indefinite article (a, an). An example is in Matthew 5:1: “he went up into a mountain.” The Greek says, “ανεβη εις το ορος,” which has the definite article “το” preceding “mountain (ορος).” The KJV is not in error. The definite article in Greek can function as a categorical article having a qualitative force (Daniel Wallace, Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics at 228), in which case the English indefinite article could be a valid translation. As with Greek, the English definite article (the) can also be used to determine the category and nothing more. For example, we might say “On sunny days, people go to the beach.” Despite the definite article, no specific beach is implied. Thus we are actually saying, “On sunny days, people go to a beach.” “The beach” is a categorical determination, not a determination of a specific beach. The definite article’s purpose is only to determine the specific category, and not to determine the specific thing in the category. Likewise, when Matthew 5:1 says, “ανεβη εις το ορος,” “το” can be translated with the English indefinite article, signifying that the category of the location was a mountain as opposed to something else (e.g. town, beach). The NIV, which attempts to convey the sense of the passage, agrees with the KJV and reads, “he went up on a mountainside.”

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