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I was reading John Lawler's dissertation on the use of generic nouns and found the following example sentences.

correct : (A) The unicorn is a mythical beast resembling the horse.

correct : (B) The unicorn is a mythical beast resembling a horse.

wrong : (C) The unicorn is a mythical beast resembling the horse with a single horn.

correct : (D) The unicorn is a mythical beast resembling a horse with a single horn.

The first two sentences (A) and (B) are both syntactically correct and have the same meaning.

However, when the phrase "with a single horn" is added to the first two sentences (A) and (B), which leads to sentences (C) and (D), respectively, (C) is wrong but (D) is correct.

My question is : what is wrong with sentence (C) ?

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    I think ''the horse with a single horn'' is wrong, because there is no horse with a single horn. (D) is correct, because the unicorn resembles a horse, but isn't. It shares many characteristics of horses, with one exception: that it has _ a single horn_. In other words, the unicorn is almost like a horse, except for the fact that it has a single horn (which actual horses do not have). – JJJ Mar 15 '18 at 9:23
  • Not clear what kind of answer you are looking for. The addition of "with a single horn" makes the reference to the horse specific and therefore prevents a generic interpretation: there is no class of horses with a single horn. – JeremyC Mar 15 '18 at 9:23
  • (D) may be paraphrased "The unicorn doesn't exist and never has done. It 'is' a mythical beast. There is a quite well-defined image of 'what one looks like': think of a horse. Now think of a 45cm (say) straight horn projecting from the forehead." // (C) would have to be rendered (from the colon) "... : You know those horses with 45cm (say) straight horns projecting from their foreheads? ..." – Edwin Ashworth Mar 15 '18 at 9:45

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