A human ear responds to a wide range of frequencies.

My teacher already has said me, when you are speaking about a part of your body that it belongs to it- it is not artificial et cetera- you must say the following:

the eye

the ear . . et cetera.

But, I just have seen the above sentence.

Would anybody kindly elaborate it?

Many thanks

  • You can use "a", "the", or no article at all. We have previous questions on the subject, e.g. the one I am closing this as a duplicate of. So your very premise is wrong. Just because the sentence uses "a" doesn't mean it must use "a" (as indeed your teacher has taught you). You might as well ask why the sentence must use "respond" or "range" or "human".
    – RegDwigнt
    Feb 11, 2014 at 11:11

2 Answers 2


The sense of 'a human ear' puts the emphasis on the 'human' as adjective, as opposed to a different type of ear - eg, reptilian, or pteropine (bat-from the list [here])1.

The sense of 'the human ear' uses the definite article to refer to a specific item as indicative as the entire species, as in 'the lion is king of the beasts' - we have no specific lion in mind, it is the leonine species that is intended, but because it's easier to think of a single lion as being a king, the definite article is used.

It's less easy to think of a single human ear as symbolising the quality of human hearing, since they come in pairs, but using 'the' it's a way of referring to the hearing organ in general terms, rather than as distinct from other species' hearing faculties.

'Ear' is used here as a Synechdoche - it is a part which stands for the entire human faculty of hearing.

  • So, which one is correct?
    – nima
    Feb 11, 2014 at 9:17

Both the definite and indefinite article can be used to make generic reference, that is, in the words of the ‘Longman Student Grammar of Spoken and Written English’, ‘when a noun phrase refers to the whole class, rather than just one or more instances of the class.’

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