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How do you see the difference between these two sentences? Could someone explain the difference between these two? Sometimes I just can't get such subtle meaning. Why does the first one take the definite article and the second one takes the indefinite article? 1) Thousands of years ago, it was only kings, pharaohs, and emperors who had the ability to solve large-scale problems. 2) I believe gays have an ability to see beauty in places other people might find repellent or unattractive. Both examples are taken from the internet. In both cases, the abilities are defined enough to take THE. Does it work if I change the sentences? 1) Thousands of years ago, kings, pharaohs, and emperors had an ability to solve large-scale problems. I state that it wasn't just one ability that they had. 2) The ability to see beauty in odd places is so rare that only gays can have it.
Oct 7, 2019 3:42 PM
Answers · 6
It's a question of whether you want to be precise or ambiguous. If you say "ONLY kings, pharaohs and emperors" then you are excluding everyone else, but if you say..."Thousands of years ago, kings, pharaohs, and emperors..." then you are not excluding anyone, per se, you are simply choosing to concentrate on these three types of people. So in one sentence ONLY these three could solve large-scale problems, and in the other sentence it COULD ALSO be priests, sailors, businessmen, children and shoe salesman, but you only want to talk about kings, pharaohs and emperors. Likewise, if you say "THE ability" then you are implying that there is only one method by which these rulers solved large-scale problems. If you say "AN ability" then you are implying that there may be many methods to solve these problems, and these rulers choose ONE of them. Your second example...."I believe gays have an ability to see beauty"... is written to be ambiguous. They have "AN" ability to see beauty, which implies that there could be many ways to see beauty. When it comes to the topic of beauty you almost have to be ambiguous.
October 7, 2019
Karl's answer is correct. Your proposed sentences don't have the same meaning as the originals, and the differences from the originals aren't subtle.
October 8, 2019
Regarding the comment above: You don't have an ability to breathe. You have the damn ability. :D
October 7, 2019
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English, Russian
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Russian