A: Those are my wives

B: Well, my wife, I just have the one, ...

This conversation is taken from the series shameless, s07e03, min. 22:47.

What is the meaning of the definite article in B's sentence? I cannot find it in any major dictionary

  • 5
    The one I just mentioned. – michael.hor257k Oct 11 '18 at 21:16
  • 2
    @michael.hor257k The meaning seems to be the "only" I have – GJC Oct 11 '18 at 21:30
  • 2
    Well no, "only" is what the "just" means in this sentence. The "the" simply means "the". Like in any other sentence, really. – RegDwigнt Oct 11 '18 at 21:49

I would argue that the word "the" is being used for emphasis in this context.

With this sentence structure, it can be hard for the listener to grasp the meaning of those first seven words. The commas make it easy to read, but consider it without the visual cues. Each of the words is monosyllabic and it's an unusual structure.

Adding the "the" for emphasis makes the phrase "I just have the one" something like an idiom.

  • 2
    Yes, 'I just have the one' is idiomatic when referring to something it's normal to have only one of. It could also refer to something previously mentioned. 'I took my poodle to the vet's.' 'Do you have any other dogs?' 'No, just the one.' – Kate Bunting Oct 12 '18 at 8:25

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