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Dr Grammar


Posted by dannysam   6 Nov 2013 9 42 pm

Dear Alex

The following sentences were copied from my daughter's text book.

Sometimes my cat thinks I look hungry and it tries to feed me. I find a dead mouse on my desk or on the floor by my bed. I say thank you to the cat, then I put the mouse in the garbage.

I've felt the "a dead mouse" and "put the mouse" sound very strange. Are they grammatical wrong.

Is it more appropriate to say " I always find dead mice..... ' and " put the mice " ?

Best regards
Danny Sam

Posted by alex stringer   7 Nov 2013 1 45 pm

Hi Danny

The grammar is fine. I imagine you are questioning it because it involves actions that are happen on more than one occasion, and possibly you are aware that we often make generalisations using plural nouns. This is quite true. You could certainly say I find dead mice on my desk, which I put in the garbage..

However, you can also use indefinite and definite articles in this situation.

In your example, this is a better choice. Otherwise it would be unclear whether you found one dead mouse each time or more than one:
I find dead mice on my desk and put them in the garbage

The article changes from a dead mouse to the dead mouse as the second time it has already been mentioned: we know which dead mouse you are talking about - it is not one of many possible dead mice.

Hope this helps.



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