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Re: Use of articles

Martin Eberhard Schauer <Martin.E.Schauer@gmx.de> writes:

> recently i reviewed a translation on debian-l10n-german.
> >>> msgid "The file %s is missing from plugin %s."
> >>>       
> >> (translated) I'm afraid the article is missing in the Englisch text.
> >>
> >> msgid "The file %s is missing from the plugin %s."
> >>                                   ^^^
> > (translated) IMHO no article is missing - it is often omitted in
> > English texts. I suggest asking a native speaker before filing a bug
> > report.
> To me (i'm German) the example sounds very strange without an article.
> Until now i often considered  missing articles as mistakes.

Perhaps it will help to think of three possible articles: the indefinite
article (“a”, “an”), the definite article (“the”), and the null article.
All three are in common use, and produce different meanings.

> I would be grateful for an explanation regarding the correct use (and
> omission) of articles.

In the example above, using “the file %s” indicates a specific file that
could be any other file, whereas “plugin %s” indicates a specific plugin
*and* has the connotation that this is the only possible plugin meeting
that description.

It has similar connotations to using “plugin %s” as a proper noun; a
sense that the correct *name* for that plugin is “plugin %s”, or that
“plugin” is a *title* being applied similar to the title for a person.
It isn't actually a proper noun or title, though.

That's not definitive; it's merely a way of thinking about the usage
that might help distinguish the implications of the null article in this

 \     “This world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending |
  `\      the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the |
_o__)           hopes of its children.” —Dwight Eisenhower, 1953-04-16 |
Ben Finney

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