English Majors: "The" is now an adj???

What part of speech is the word “the”? Simple and stupid question, right? What were you taught? I was taught it IS and always shall be an article…and nothing more!

Well, maybe schools have finally starting promoting ignorance in lieu of promoting education? A PA middle school English teacher claims that it is WRONG to identify the word “the” as an article! She claims it is an adjective! She argues that in the phrase “the table”, for example, “the” describes “table” for us so we know it is not just any table! (How stupid can you be!?!?!?!?!?) Sure, that describes table - as clear as mud!

Even worse, the mother of this child (sworn to fight this attrocity) searched on the internet. She found a few so-called “experts” who confirm that “the” is an adjective! OK, beam me up Scotty!
I’ve heard it all, now. I WAG some Ph.D. had to cut his/her teeth on some new concept to earn those holy letters…once again serving to screw up education for the masses in the process!

BTW, Mirriam-Webster © 1985 claims it IS an article with a few exceptions where they state it is an adverb! Oy! I’ll have to check the M-W on-line for any updated information…

What the fudge gives here? :rolleyes: :rolleyes: :rolleyes:
What were you taught? (Yes, Mr. Moderator, this should have a factual answer! …or else we’re all in trouble!)

  • Jinx

I always joked in college that they’d change all the rules by the time I’d graduate!

You okay there, Jinx?

Yes, the is an article, the definite article to be precise. But I have to admit, I never understood why articles are not defined as a subclass of adjectives. I also don’t understand why pronouns are not a subclass of nouns, so you can see how confused I am.

Perhaps it “the” is pronounced “thee” and stressed as in:
“I didn’t just see you with A woman, I saw you with THE woman!”
it could be construed as an adjective-like-sort-of-modifier of the noun.

Or maybe teachers are becoming the.

FranticMad, with all due respect, the problem with “THE woman” is that you’re describing intonnation and emphasis based strictly on context. Parts of speech do not depend on the context. Granted, some nouns take on a verb form, and sometimes a verb can take on a noun form. But, it has nothing to do with where the emphasis is placed.

As for “THE woman”…what does it describe to you? If I wrote a novel without a single descriptive word, it’d be rather boring, wouldn’t it? You have learned nothing further about “the woman”. Was she tall? stout? fair-skinned? rude? No, all we know is she was just “the”. She was the best “the” there ever was. Wow…says a lot.

Next thing you know, they’ll be teaching the kids in math that
1 = 2 for cryin’ out loud! - Jinx

Didn’t you get the memo?

1 = 2.

(and yes, I do know there is a logical fallacy in the above 'proof") :stuck_out_tongue:

No due respect required. I never use “the” as an adjective, no matter how “the” I feel. I bow to your outrage.

Achernar, cute! Actually, I missed the memo because I had to stay after school and write 1000x “I will learn not learn in school!” …and, if I would have gotten the memo, I doubt I could even read it! :smiley:

Boy, now I know why Johnny can’t read! Along these lines, I am tutoting a 9th grader in Algebra I. He tells me his high school classes are 90 minutes long! Sheesh! Even in college my day classes were never that long (except for labs)! I can tell his brain is fried after 50 minutes , but who can blame him???

What are we doing to education? Maybe I should start a thread in Great Debates - or better the still - The Pit??? It just burns my keesters…all these years and we still don’t know how to "edge-i-micate’ the public! Again, I say “Sheesh”! - Jinx

Well, I hope you’ve learned a valuable lesson from all this - never trust someone from Pennsylvania.

According to Harbrace (the English teacher’s Bible), an article is a kind of adjective!

Actually, Jinx, I’m surprised that you weren’t taught that an article is an adjective in school. What was wrong with your education!!!???:smiley: I learned that in the mid-fifties and taught it to my students until they took me out on a stretcher.

I was taught the seven or so elements of speech:


Everything falls under there somehow. To keep us from having to deal with the ninety-two or so elements of speech, there are some subcategories. For instance, there are many kinds of pronouns; “I” is a nominative pronoun, “me” is an objective pronoun, “myself” is a reflexive pronoun. Seems logical, yeah? Likewise, articles aren’t considered their own element of speech, and they fall under adjectives.

This is more clear in a lingo like French, I think. The number one is used as an article equivalent to our “a/an.” It answers the question of “how many.” Is there anyone who’ll deny that the word “two” in the phrase “two ducks” is an adjective? Same concept.

typhoon, you should teach.

Bingo, typhoon. The only major category you’ve omitted is prepositions, but these, too, serve typically an adjective or adverbial purpose. Just taught that lesson today. :slight_smile:

To address the OP (and really, it’s all pretty much covered so I’ll add just a few cents), articles are just a specific flavor of adjective. They suggest number as well as significance–THE book, vs. A book, for example, carries a descriptive (thus, adjective) connotation that affects reader/listener interpretation.

I don’t know why, but I adore dissecting languages in this manner. I took a Principles of Language course in college, and while everyone else was rolling their eyes in anguish, I was relishing analyzing the structures, phonemes, and patterns of other languages.

Which leads me to once again end a post with:
Man, am I boring.

What, no prepositions? Sister Grace Agnes would have rapped me on the knuckles for foregtting that!

It’s all the fault of the Greeks. Or rather a desperate attempt to imitate the Greeks by others.

Way back when, someone analyzed the Greek language and decided there were 8 parts of speech. One of which happened to be articles, but that’s beside the point. The main thing was the number 8.

In imitation, some Roman analyzed Latin and also came up with 8 parts of speech. Only Latin doesn’t have articles, so the Latin parts of speech were somewhat different than Greek ones. No matter, that number 8 was the important thing.

So when they analyzed English it was inevitable that they come up with 8 parts of speech. So what if they had to lump articles in with the adjectives. They got their magic number.

Modern grammars usually have a different class, the determiners, that the articles are part of. Also included in the determiners are the demonstrative adjectives (this, that, these, those), the possessive pronouns and some other words which traditionally were adjectives (some, many, etc.). The distinction is that adjectives describe nouns and determiners set nouns in context.

As has already been listed, there are eight parts of speech, and the article, whether definite or indefinite, is not listed as its own part of speech.

The article falls under the definition of an adjective, i.e., a word that modifies a noun or pronoun.

Since the late '60’s, I have always been taught in school that the article was an adjective. But lumping a (an) and the together, grammarians have come up with a subset of adjectives and called them articles.

Latin has no articles. German has a boatload of them. English has two. And they’re all adjectives.

My big gripe with the eight parts is that pronouns should not be a separate part of speech since they’re really a subset of nouns.

And what’s even further aggravating are the possessive pronouns. The possessive pronouns that act like nouns, such as:

Are true pronouns, though, they should be called nouns, IMO.

But… possessive pronouns that act like adjectives, such as:

Are labeled (accurately, IMO) as adjectives by grammarians, even though most people would still call them pronouns.


“My own brand of Karma is to create as many confusions as I clear up.”

Actually, “nominative” and “objective” aren’t kinds of pronouns, they are cases in which pronouns can be inflected. The English language generally inflects only personal (I/my/me) and indefinite (whoever/whomever) pronouns by case, although other languages inflect by case more broadly. I and me are both personal pronouns in the first person, singular number, and subjective (or nominative) and objective cases respectively.

A preposition itself never functions as an adjective or adverb, but usually introduces a phrase that does.