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I am writing an English paper; (actually translating into English from a Persian source), where the topic of "ending" in story writing is discussed. Due to frequent use of the term "story", can I use "the" before story? For example, in the following sentence:

An ending is the last paragraph of a story, play, or a screenplay. In fictional literature, it is a description of the last part of the story describing the behavior, speech, and status of the heroes and the story’s atmosphere.

where, I am not talking about any particular story. As articles are not often used in Persian, it makes me confused in such cases whether to use a definite article or not, given the fact that "story" in the above text refers to a specific category of writing being discussed in the paper and that has been addressed several times in the same paper. That being said, is this "the" usage permissible?

closed as off-topic by anongoodnurse, Robusto, tchrist, Chenmunka, user66974 Oct 30 '14 at 15:49

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  • There's nothing at all wrong with the articles in your quote, except that you should either say "a story, a play, or a screenplay" or "a story, play, or screenplay". – Peter Shor Oct 30 '14 at 1:55
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Generally, you would the articles "a/an" when you are not referring to a specific thing but instead to any example in a group of things. You use "the" when referring back to a thing that is already specified either by you or by context.

In fictional literature, it is a description of the last part of the story describing the behavior, speech, and status of the heroes and the story’s atmosphere.

Your first use of the phrase 'the story' isn't referring to a specific story, so 'a story' is more appropriate. Your second use of this phrase is referring to a story that you specified in the first half of the sentence (when you said 'a story'), so 'the story' is more appropriate.

Other example:

I saw a dog. The dog didn't have a collar.

Do you have a quarter I can borrow? I can return the quarter to you tomorrow.

(Note that these sentences are a bit weird because we should be using pronouns in the second sentences, but they are still valid)

Do you have a pencil I can borrow?

Do you have the homework I assigned yesterday?

  • 2
    This is a pretty good answer, but (as mentioned here: english.stackexchange.com/questions/93834/…) the can be used in a generic sense. I think "it is a description of the last part of the story" falls under that usage. – Justin Greer Oct 29 '14 at 19:55
  • I definitely agree that your way sounds fine too for exactly that reason. – Jeremy Oct 29 '14 at 19:57

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