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笑倩旁人為正冠- 漫談英文冠詞的使用

笑倩旁人為正冠- 漫談英文冠詞的使用

- 鄭德音 -

羞將短髮還吹帽,笑倩旁人為正冠。

杜甫《九日藍田崔氏庄》

“…the meeting was under sponsorship of the State Commission for the Use of the Atomic Energy…the Organizing Committee has a pleasure to inform you…“

− Soviet Academy Science inviting American scientists to a conference

有人說,英文中的冠詞好比鐘錶裡的小水晶,用得好是顆珠寶,嚴絲密合地与大小齒輪配合無間,准确報時;用得不好則成鞋底的細石,磨之損之,令人舉步維艱。這細石的比喻倒也十分妥貼,因為英文中的冠詞,不折不扣正歸屬于文法中所謂的不變詞(Particle),您看那不變詞的拼法,可不跟小砂粒一模一樣?

冠詞(article),原文意為 a little joint。既擔任連接功能,其角色自不能小靦,否則所表達的意思將分崩離析。冠詞分定冠詞(the)和不定冠詞 (a, an)兩种。定冠詞用來指稱特定而明确的事物,不定冠詞則屬泛稱。這定義夠簡單,原理也清楚易懂,但許多人依舊誤用錯用,原因在寫作者自己弄不清到底所用的名詞該是一般性的泛稱,還是有殊異性質的特定對象。現試舉幾個例子說明:

1. A man with a long stick; 2. The man with the long stick;3. A man with the long stick;4. The man with a long stick 這四個片語乍看相似,細瞧則是各說各話。第一個全屬泛稱,無特定的人和物涉入;第二個則是人和物對象明确,是此非彼,与他人他物無涉;第三個不拘人的對象,但獨標某物;第四個特指某人,而物件則不拘。可見冠詞所用不同,表達的意思也隨之而變,到底該用定冠詞或不定冠詞,并無定則,端視作者心意而定。冠詞的使用若如此單純也罷,但特定或不特定,卻是個容易混淆的概念,部分原因在於這兩類有時可以互通互換,如:

The exception tests the rule. (any exception, any rule) An exception tests a rule. 但有時兩者互用,則語義不清,如下句:I do not believe in a success of a summit meeting of the Big Eight forces.(應作in the success of)

不定冠詞 a (an) 和定冠詞 the 的區別,可從 Earth as a planet Earth as the planet 來看出。前者僅將地球看成是宇宙眾多星球之一,後者則視地球為我們所生存熟知,獨一無二的世界。She married the relative of her manager. 說明她的經理只有一個親戚,She married a relative of her manager. 則表示她的 manager 有一個以上的親戚。癥結所在,作者要時時能辨別特定与非特定的概念,如下例:

If published under a pseudonym, an autobiography of a woman could not be told apart from a man’s. 這個句子的重點在說明由女士所寫的自傳類型,屬特定範圍,故應使用 the autobiography of a woman. 大致來說,a…of a的結構通常不宜,因為兩個不定冠詞連用,極易產生模糊之感。A bodyguard of a gangster 應改為 the bodyguard of a gangster the gangster’s bodyguard.

除了這些特定和非特定的基本概念之外,冠詞的世界尚別有洞天,需得再進一步仔細推敲。莎翁的名句 “to be, or not to be” 正可借來說明第一問:“要還是不要(冠詞)?”大矣哉這一問!有或沒有,要還是不要,不是個人偏好的問題,而是語義上必要的問題。有些字,如 kind,sort,manner,species,type 等,本身已含種類範疇之意,其后不可再加一不定冠詞 a,但許多人樂此不疲。This is a very special kind of (a) honeymoon./The only way you can get people to work is to give them some kind of (an) incentive./This program could train a youngster to be any kind of (a) specialist from a physician to an artist.括號中的不定冠詞都屬錯誤用法。

重複冠詞,表示該名詞被個別化處理,或用以對比之用。如下句中,She did not envy the wealth, but youth of her rival. youth 前應有定冠詞 the. Before the use of lodestone or [the] knowledge of the compass.中,knowledge 前的定冠詞也不應省去。若幾個修飾詞指的是同一個名詞,則冠詞可省略,如:

A brick and stone house stood by the road. 路邊只有一棟石磚相間的屋子。A theological or religious contention 將神學和宗教視同相似。但若修飾詞指的是不同名詞,則不能省略。A brick and a stone house stood by the road.路邊恰有兩棟房子,一石屋一磚房。A theological or a religious contention 則神學歸神學,宗教歸宗教,是兩碼子事。

許多人以研讀新聞報紙作為作為增進英文閱讀書寫能力的不二法門,但這當中卻也有陷阱。“報章體”的標題式文字,為了簡潔和節省空間,往往將冠詞拿掉,久而久之相沿成習,以訛傳訛 ,于是眾人跟著《不知有漢,無論魏晉。》要記得的原則是,單數名詞若其后接上 of 引導的修飾詞,必須有定冠詞在該名詞前面。以下列句子為例:

One act of desertion can cause [the] distrust of those who remain./ He wished there were more doors to close off the cubicles for [the] purpose of privacy./ President De Gaule made proposals for [the] reform of the United Nations.括弧中的定冠詞都是原文所無而應該加入的。如下例中,

Scott had begun the story in 1805 and put it aside on [the] well-meant but poor advice of a friend. “advice” 到底需不需要冠詞?首先,put it aside on well-meant advice 尚未隸屬于任何人,故為一般非特定性質,但若advice 後又加上of a friend,則成殊異特定範圍,故原文中應有定冠詞the。

Though brought to the stake to be burned, they were often shown [the] mercy of strangling.此句中該不該加冠詞?這個句子寫到often shown mercy 時,還是非特定範圍,但加上of strangling 後,乃附上殊異性,于是必須有定冠詞。綜上所述,可知...the…of 是焦不離孟,孟不離焦的死忠組合。這是因為of這個字帶有possessive(所有格)或 partitive (區隔)性質,形成介系詞片語和名詞之間的特殊密切關系所致。其他種類的介系詞,如 for, in, about等,則沒有這種緊密關系,因而可以不需定冠詞。如下句:The patient is doing nicely after emergency surgery for the removal of a bullet in his back. Emergency 前不需有定冠詞,但removal 前則不能沒有定冠詞 the。前面所引的例句如果寫成They were often shown mercy in their last moments. 則定冠詞 the可以免去。

英文中若定冠詞后加上單數名詞,表示特定的複數名詞。至于非特定的複數名詞,則由複數名詞不藉冠詞之力獨立表達。此中分際甚微,但用者往往不察。定冠詞后加上複數名詞的突兀,可從以下例句看出:He was greeted by the officials of the American embassy. 此話蘊含的意思是,所有大使館的官員無不出來迎接他。果真如此,這個 He 必是要人中的要人。原文若是 He was greeted by officials of the American embassy. 則親切合理得多。同樣地,下句中,A revolt of the students in Paris touched off the revolution of 1830. 意指巴黎所有學生全部參與叛亂活動,無一例外。若是A revolt of students in Paris touched off the revolution in 1830.則只有部分學生參與其事。

現在我們回頭來看看本文開頭所引的那一封來自蘇俄科學院的邀請函,到底出了什麼問題?“…the meeting was under [the] sponsorship of the State Commission for the Use of (the) Atomic Energy…the Organizing Committee has (a) [the] pleasure (to) [of ] informing you…”在短短兩個句子裡,原作者在sponsorship 前少了一個the,又在Atomic Energy前多了一個the,并在pleasure 前誤用一個the,導致動名詞成了不定詞。面對這樣的窘境,我們只能寄以無限同情,因為這當中的規則可說是羚羊掛角,無跡可尋,很難用簡單的法則來規範,更多的是英文語言結構內的習慣用語,只可意會,不能言傳。最好的學習方法便是多親炙正確的英文,當我們自己誤用時,以『笑倩他人為正冠』的態度一笑置之,則語言學習路上日有進步,有如登山尋幽探勝,每逢一奇景便欣然有得,在廣無涯涘的英文大海中邊學習邊成長。

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