that/the

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that/the

Post by navi » Sat Jan 15, 2022 3:16 am

Which are correct:

1) They arrested that brother of Harry's who owns a pawn shop, not the one who owns a pizza parlor.
2) They arrested the brother of Harry's who owns a pawn shop, not the one who owns a pizza parlor.


3) They painted that door of the building that faces north, not the one that faces east.
4) They painted the door of the building that faces north, not the one that faces east.



5) He keyed that door of my car that had already been keyed once before by someone else, not the door that was intact.

6) He keyed the door of my car that had already been keyed once before by someone else, not the door that was intact.

Gratefully,
Navi
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Re: that/the

Post by Phil White » Sat Jan 15, 2022 1:43 pm

The sentences with "that" are all marginal. The use of "that" in these contexts puts a heavy stress on the specificity of the noun you are talking about. You could instead use "that specific". If "that specific" sounds wrong, then "that" on its own will also sound wrong. So the following sound fine:
  • Sheba hates that (specific) cat that is always coming into our garden.
  • I need to see that (specific) document that we were talking about last week.
But these do not:
  • *Can you clean that (specific) carpet that is in the living room?
  • *He grabbed that (specific) pen that was on the table and started scribbling furiously.
  • *Einstein wrote down the equations for the theory of relativity on that (specific) napkin that was on the table.
It depends partly on the number of potential candidates for the referent of "that". In your example, Harry has a limited number of brothers (although sentence 2 may work under certain circumstances). In sentences 3 and 4, you are only talking about two possible doors. And in sentences 5 and 6, your car only has a limited number of doors.

It is, of course, a subjective judgement whether the subset from which you are selecting the specific item is already small and discrete. For instance:
  • They arrested the brother of Harry's who owns a pawn shop, not the one who owns a pizza parlor.
    (you have limited the subset of candidates to just two)
  • They arrested that brother of Harry's who owns a pawn shop.
    (Harry could have a reasonably large number of brothers and you have not restricted the potential subset)
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Signature: Phil White
Non sum felix lepus

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