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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.

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  • 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
    Commented Mar 18, 2014 at 8:29
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    take part in etc., are not quite related, we can ask as separate questions, perhaps.
    – Kris
    Commented Mar 18, 2014 at 8:57

5 Answers 5

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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.)

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    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? Commented Sep 27, 2016 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. Commented Sep 27, 2016 at 2:37
  • "Why didn't they use 'a' in the first sentence?  And why did they use one in the second one?" Commented Sep 27, 2016 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. Commented Sep 27, 2016 at 4:26
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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.

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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.

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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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I'm not a native too but i took this years ago in my English class We use part to describe something that don't have value or use alone without the whole combination or when the whole combination can still be with benefit without this part (as your leg) "A part" to describe something that have value alone and can be of benefit alone without the whole combination ,like a doctor in his staff, or when describing a part that the whole combination won't have any benefit without (as the neck) Some people live without a leg, but none lives without a neck

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    This needs some punctuation. Commented Jan 31, 2021 at 9:23

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