The old woman reduced the self-esteem of the speaker.

My question is why it is the self-esteem.

  • There is a further question here. I would have written The old woman reduced the speaker's self-esteem because I would want to define and draw attention to the visible speaker, not to the internal and invisible 'self-esteem'. – Nigel J Sep 15 '18 at 12:01
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    Because self-esteem is not a plural noun, the rules of English syntax require an article in that position. If you wrote 'a self esteem' it would sound like the speaker had several 'self esteems', which doesn't work, so you write 'the self esteem'. (Similarly for a genetically normal cat you wouldn't say 'he scratched a head of the cat'.) The last commenter's suggestion is better stylistically. – S Conroy Sep 15 '18 at 14:47

Because it is known from context which person is being talked about. that`s what matters in this case. We are talking about the specific person the old woman is referring to.
For example - " Battered women are often depressed, anxiety-ridden, suffering from low self-esteem or displaying a countenance of helplessness. " ( in general, it is a general idea ) One more example - " Abusers are often suspicious and jealous, suffer from low self-esteem and need to assert themselves. " but - " The school principal destroyed the self-esteem of the pupil by insulting him/her in front of everyone ". ( we know who the pupil is )

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    Because that's how the English language works! Self-esteem is a quality, not an object. so we wouldn't say 'a self-esteem in the same way that we could say 'She picked up a handkerchief belonging to the speaker'. – Kate Bunting Sep 15 '18 at 8:13
  • @KateBunting I think your comment is beside the point. Int his particular case, the definite article " the " is used because, it is clear from context who exactly the speak is. – Beqa Sep 15 '18 at 8:25
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    Beqa, the system has flagged your answer for closure as "low-quality because of its length and content." An answer is expected to be authoritative, detailed, and explain why it is correct, whereas your answer currently reads as a personal opinion without anything to support it. You can avoid closure by adding more detail using the edit link. – Chappo Says SE Dudded Monica Sep 15 '18 at 11:09
  • @Chappo I explained in my original comment why the definite article " the " is used in OP`s sentence. I reiterate, when it is clear from context which person or thing is being mentioned, even if we are using it for the first time, we ought to use the definite article " the ". As for your reply, it adds absolutely no value to this discussion. In your place, instead of typing this tirade, uttered with a sarcastic undertone, I would come up with something worthy of attention. – Beqa Sep 15 '18 at 11:52
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    I don't think this answer is adequate. You say he has self-esteem, not he has a self-esteem or he has the self-esteem. So why do you need to use an article in the OP's sentence? – Peter Shor Sep 15 '18 at 18:43

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