8

This question may seem to be very simple, but something I get confused whenever I want to speak.

I read a book entitled "re-start your English", and saw a sentence.

This is a leg. It is part of your body.

This is a neck. It is 'a' part of your body.

Why didn't they use 'a' in the first sentence? And why did they use one in the second one?

I'm not a native, so I hope you will please understand, even if there's something awkward about my question.

  • more questions. 1.'take part in' is synonymous with 'participate' and people do not use 'a' here. 2.my success owes a large part to his plan. in this sentence, we use 'a'. why???? – user69222 Mar 18 '14 at 8:29
  • 1
    take part in etc., are not quite related, we can ask as separate questions, perhaps. – Kris Mar 18 '14 at 8:57
9

When part is used without the article it has the meaning of section or segment - it is less than the whole object.

A part has the meaning of a specific sub unit. It normally isn't used for something which isn't an identifiable thing all by itself (though just to be confusing sometimes it is.)

  • How does this answer the question?  I believe that "A leg is a part of your body." is perfectly acceptable — a leg is a specific sub unit; an identifiable thing all by itself (perhaps more so than a neck).  And "A neck is part of your body." is equally acceptable — a neck is a section or segment of the body; it is less than the whole object.  So, in the OP's examples, they're interchangeable; right? – Scott Sep 27 '16 at 1:25
  • @Scott they're both acceptable, but they have different meanings, as I explained. Without the article it means a portion of the whole. With the article it means a specific sub unit with defined boundaries. – curiousdannii Sep 27 '16 at 2:37
  • "Why didn't they use 'a' in the first sentence?  And why did they use one in the second one?" – Scott Sep 27 '16 at 3:37
  • A leg is a portion of the whole body. A neck is an identifiable sub unit of the whole body. Why they chose those specific sentences can't be answered without context. – curiousdannii Sep 27 '16 at 4:26
6

Generally, you can use either.

'My arm is part of my body' and 'My arm is a part of my body' are both everyday uses to native English speakers. They mean more or less the same thing. There is a slightly nuanced difference in meaning but one which even a very experienced speaker would find it difficult to explain. So I wouldn't worry about that.

I presume in your first example it is meant to read 'This is a leg. It is part of your body'.

Do remember always to start a sentence with a capital letter. You will see that I have extensively edited the OP, but I didn't interfere with the sentence examples you gave.

1

If you say "Money is part of the American Dream", you mean that both ideas are strongly linked together. If you said "Money is a part of the American Dream", it would mean that money is only a part of the American Dream. You would focus on just one part as opposed to the rest. The second solution is grammatically correct but seems awkward as it would be dificult to find a context in which it fits.

-1

Use "part" when it is not meaningful without the rest of the whole; use "a part" when it is meaningful and combines with other meaningful parts of the same whole. For instance: A leg is part of my body; but This item is a part of my collection.

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