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According to this link and this one, in adjective/relative clause we should use the before the noun we are defining, that is because for example in the sentence below,

I was happy to see the policeman who saved my cat.

even if we don't know the policeman's name, it's still a particular policeman because it is the one who saved the cat.

Whereas i found a sentence which contains adjective clause but didn't use the:

A woman who fell 10 meters from High Peak was lifted to safety by a helicopter.

My first question: why doesn't above sentence use the even though it is using an adjective clause?

My second question: in the sentence below,

The books that have red covers are new.

Do we use the because of mentioning that have red covers or because we are talking about some specific books, for example the books on the table?

I mean do you agree with the order below for the last sentence?

First we have The books, so we are talking about some specific books (e.g. on the table) ,Then we restrict those books to the ones that have red covers and at last we add some more information about them(are new).

  • You asked about the books that have red covers on English Language Learners, and seemed to be satisfied with the response at the time. Why have you brought it up again here on ELU? Come to that, why are you raising a basic question about the difference between a/the woman here, when you obviously know of the learners' site? – FumbleFingers Aug 5 '15 at 16:22
  • @FumbleFingers, my questions here is different from what i asked on ell. besides that, everybody says something that makes me more confused. – amin Aug 5 '15 at 16:28
  • What can I say? I do not believe you could reasonably be described as a linguist, etymologist, or (serious) English language enthusiast, and I do not believe ELU is here to teach basic English to learners. But I only have one closevote to cast, so we'll have to see if four other users (or one moderator) agree with my position. – FumbleFingers Aug 5 '15 at 16:38
  • Virtually none of the posters at ELU can reasonably be described that way. Unless by "serious English language enthusiast" you intend to include "student in an English class". The answer is simple; the rule is wrong. While the majority of antecedents of restrictive relative clauses are going to have definite articles, there are also plenty of situations where no article or an indefinite article is appropriate. Rules that are that simple are almost always wrong, or at least misleading in that they claim that one rule covers all cases. – John Lawler Aug 5 '15 at 20:25
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A woman who fell 10 meters from High Peak was lifted to safety by a helicopter.

This is news. We haven't heard about this woman before.

The woman who fell 10 meters from High Peak was lifted to safety by a helicopter.

This is an update. We know the woman fell, now they are telling us what progress has been made.



The books that have red covers are new.

If we omitted the definite article we would have:

"Books that have red covers are new."

That would mean that every book in the entire world that has a red-cover is new.

"The books that have red covers are new."

This refers to a particular set of books (perhaps the ones on the table or in the library) that we have been discussing. We are specifying which of them are new.

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  • So you mean that in The books that have red covers are new, existence of the is not because of that have red covers? – amin Aug 5 '15 at 16:30
  • if your answer is No, so why can't we say the same thing about I was happy to see the policeman who saved my cat? – amin Aug 5 '15 at 16:35
  • That's right. We can say "the policeman" because we already know that a policeman was involved. We are specifying the particular officer. "who saved my cat" has no relevance to whether the article is definite or indefinite. It could be either depending on the context. – chasly from UK Aug 5 '15 at 16:48
  • Isn't there also a semantic constraint of some kind? I've been mulling "I was happy to see a policeman who saved my cat," over and it just sounds wrong, but syntactically I think it's just fine. Contrast "I was happy to see a person who didn't think my idea was crazy." – DRF Aug 5 '15 at 17:17
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A woman who fell 10 meters from High Peak was lifted to safety by a helicopter.

My first question: why doesn't above sentence use the even though it is using an adjective clause?

In this case, the adjective clause is describing the woman, as opposed to distinguishing her from other women. If this apparent news article was continued, the next line might read, "The woman is in stable condition," with the 'the' indicating that they're still talking about the same person, whereas "A woman is in stable condition," could be talking about anybody.

Do we use the because of mentioning that have red covers or because we are talking about some specific books, for example the books on the table?

It's referring to specific books. One could also make the blanket statement, "Books that have red covers are new," which would cover all books, not just the ones on the table.

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