General Writing and Grammar Help/A



Hope you are fine.

Please look at options A) and B).

A) A prison dehumanizes people.

B) What are some bad effects of stress on A body?

I showed them to a few English teachers. They say that option A) is correct but B) is wrong.

Here is my question: Why the use of the article "A" is correct in front of the word "prison", but is wrong in front of the word "body"?

I am very confused. WHY? Please explain your reasons.
So, you are a native speaker of English, right?

Haha! Well first, to set your mind at ease, yes I am a native English speaker and English teacher, I just live and work in Japan.

Actually, I would disagree with your teachers.  I would say they are both TECHNICALLY correct but either strange, ambiguous or inappropriate.

Grammatically, there are no errors with either sentence.  However, I think these sentences would be more appropriate:

A) PrisonS dehumanize people.

B) What are some bad effects of stress on THE body?

The article "a" is used to indicate that the speaker is referring to ONE INDETERMINATE object.  In other words, we know HOW MANY objects you are talking about #one# but we don't know WHICH object.

Making a noun plural by adding "s" at the end retains the indeterminate aspect #I don't know which ones#, but it allows the object to be used generally, since it refers to more than one, rather than specifically.

So to say that "a" prison dehumanizes people sounds vague.  Which ONE prison are you talking about?  Do you mean that ALL OTHER prisonS do NOT dehumanize people?  If, instead, you say "PrisonS", then the listener or reader can assume that you are talking about prisons IN GENERAL.

The article "the" is used to refer to either a SPECIFIC object or type of object, OR to the CONCEPT of the object, but not a particular/specific concrete.

In other words, "a" body refers to one ACTUAL body, but "the" body refers to one HYPOTHETICAL or imagined body.  Again, saying "effects of stress on A body" makes me wonder which ONE BODY you are referring to #and why not other bodies?#.  "The body" makes me understand that you are speaking hypothetically #IF there is stress, THEN I'm talking about THAT body#.

Hope that makes sense!  Let me know if you'd like further explanation.

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Anything to do with word usage and/or grammar, plus the fundamentals on almost any type of writing (especially creative writing, such as poetry, short stories, movie/dramatic scripts, etc.)


Majored in English literature in college; have published short stories and poems, currently teaching English as a second language to foreigners

As mentioned above, a bachelor's in English Literature and also a CELTA certification which enables me to teach English as a second language to foreigners.

Awards and Honors
Editor's Choice for a national poetry contest. 2nd prize for a short story in a city-wide short story contest.

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