The VS. a

Discussion in 'Linguistics' started by Cyrus the Great, Jul 6, 2014.

  1. Cyrus the Great Registered Senior Member

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    185
    There were six glasses of water on the table and three glasses of wine. Five people ahead of me each took a glass of water, and one took a glass of wine. When I got to the table, I took the last glass of water.

    (There were six glasses of water on the table and three glasses of wine.) I was still quite thirsty, so I took a last glass of water before going to bed.


    Although a friend of mine have just explained the following, in fact I am confused yet. Therefore, I would appreciate it very much, if somebody could explain readily the difference between the following.


    The last glass of water

    A last glass of water
     
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  3. mathman Valued Senior Member

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    In the first example, the last glass of water refers to the fact that it is the only glass of water remaining.

    In the second example, a last glass of water asserts that you did not take any more water before going to bed.
     
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  5. Cyrus the Great Registered Senior Member

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    Thanks. But, I can not get it yet.
     
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  7. Fraggle Rocker Staff Member

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    To say "the last" of something implies that there were originally several more, but by the time you came looking for them, there was only one left.

    To say "a last" of something means that there may be more, but this is the last one for now.

    BTW, "a last" is only appropriate in certain constructions. You'll be safer if you always say or write "one last."

    I'm really tired so I'm going to bed now. I'm just going to take one last look at the stars before I fall asleep. (I will certainly look again tomorrow night.)
    Our daughter is traveling to England to study at Oxford and we are very proud of her. We each gave her one last kiss as she went through the security gate at the airport. (We will kiss her again when she comes home for vacation.)
    President George H. W. Bush was defeated by Bill Clinton in the 1992 USA presidential election. He gave one last speech before he and his family moved out of the White House. (He will make many more speeches. Organizations pay very high fees to get a former President to speak at their banquets.)​
     
  8. Cyrus the Great Registered Senior Member

    Messages:
    185
    ...kicked off his boots at the back door, drew himself a last glass of beer from the barrel in the scullery, and made his way up to bed, where Mrs. Jones was already snoring.


    I am to confused about the reason why there has been written the article a instead of the.
     
  9. mathman Valued Senior Member

    Messages:
    1,426

    My guess:
    "a" means his last glass of beer before ging to bed.
    "the" means the last glass of beer in the barrel.
     

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