Wednesday, June 21, 2017

A fool and his money are soon parted

(Grammar Questions I Couldn't Answer)

Okay, yet another grammar question I created for myself.  Yet again this is from my proverbs lessons.

This one has to do with articles.

Perhaps if I was smart, I would just leave the articles alone, and not attempt to analyze the use of articles in all of the proverb lessons.  Because man-oh-man, does the use of articles get confusing in English.  (If I had started this Grammar Questions I Couldn't Answer series 10 years ago, I bet I'd have a whole blog full of questions about articles by now.  I can't even count the number of times questions about articles have stumped me in class.)

However, Scott Thornbury does not shy away from analyzing articles in his Beyond the Sentence book, and since I was using that book as inspiration for my proverb lessons, I tried to follow his example and have the students analyze all the articles.

In "The pen is mightier than the sword" --Slideshow (slidespub), Worksheet (docspub)--I had my students analyze why the proverb used the definitive article.  i.e. why was it "the pen" and "the sword" instead of "a pen" and "a sword"  .  The answer I directed them to was that the proverb was referring to things in general.  It wasn't just that one particular pen was mightier than one particular sword.  It was that pens were mightier than swords in general.

So, then, if that's the explanation I gave for "The pen is mightier than the sword", what then to do about "A fool and his money".  Why isn't it "the fool and his money" ?

I thought this over for a while, and the answer I used for that lesson was that "the" would refer to all fools in general.  But that wouldn't work here, because not all fools have money.  Some fools have money, and some don't.  So we need to look at one particular case in which a fool happens to have money.  Thus "a fool".    And that's the answer I used for the lesson --Slideshow (slidespub), Worksheet (docspub),

But that was just what I came up with out of desperation.  I'm not 100% sure I'm analyzing it right.

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