2

It is a part of a short bio, and it goes more or less as follows:

"He lives in London with his wife, his son, and three cats"

If I wanted to use articles instead of "his", which would sound more natural:

1. "He lives in London with a wife, a son, and three cats"

or

2. "He lives in London with the wife, the son, and three cats"?

As I've said - it is a short bio with the guy's education and recent jobs. His wife/child is mentioned only once at the end. So I thought: "a". Buy wouldn't it sound like he lives with somebody else's wife? Or the wife is treated like a piece furniture? I know that "his" is the best solution here, but what if...?

3
  • 3
    Most likely, readers are going to assume that "a wife" and "a son" refer to his wife and son. Hypothetically, if I were trying to hide my relationship to someone else's wife and child, but I wanted to put them in my bio, I would use "a" for plausible deniability. ("I never said they were my wife and child.") Do you see how silly that interpretation is? As for the wife, that's something I've heard in first person, but not in third person, let alone formally. Jun 25, 2020 at 20:12
  • 1
    Of your two options, "a wife" seems more natural than the wife, but it does imply he has more than one wife. Wouldn't make a positive impression in a short bio. Jun 25, 2020 at 20:49
  • Why do you want to use an article instead of "his"?
    – Brian
    Jul 2, 2020 at 13:38

2 Answers 2

2

A seems more natural to me than the. Why?

If we forget about the wife for the moment, your sentences read:

He lives in London with his son and three cats. --> All good.

He lives in London with a son and three cats. --> All good. One could read this as implying he has one son or perhaps more than one son.

He lives in London with the son and three cats. --> Nonidiomatic. No one would say this.

Without "wife", "a is definitely a more natural choice than the.

If we now focus only on the wife, your sentences read:

He lives in London with his wife. --> All good.

He lives in London with a wife. --> Given the above re "son", one could read this as implying he has one or more wives. Not perfect, but it doesn't necessarily imply he has more than one wife. The natural interpretation would be that he has one and only wife.

He lives in London with the wife. --> Nonidiomatic. No one would say this in a bio. Perhaps in a pub: "I better get home, or the wife will go ballistic."

Without "son" and "three cats", "a is definitely more natural than the.

Putting "wife", son", and "three cats" together, one would have to conclude that idiomatically a is definitely more natural than the.

2
  1. "He lives in London with a wife, a son, and three cats"

This is impersonal. For example:

"The average Cockney lives in London with a wife, a son, and three cats"

  1. "He lives in London with the wife, the son, and three cats"

This doesn't work. In fact some people refer to their own wife as "the wife".

If you said, "He lives in London with the wife" it would mean he was living with your wife"!

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.