Children living behind the bar

šŸ˜¦ Famous people are followed everywhere by the press. Their families sometimes feel they have to hide from reporters, and the children of famous people may feel that they are living behind the bar.

Here, again, we have a breakdown in communication caused by inaccurate use of articles.

Remember that for any noun there are 3 possible meanings:

  • all of them everywhere (or all of it for non-count nouns)
  • one of many (or some of many for plurals)
  • this one exactly (orĀ these exactly for plurals)

I think the writer of the opening example meant to describe the bars in a prison, andĀ was trying to use the idiom ‘behind bars’ (grammar = some of many).

  • ‘the’ indicates this one exactly. IfĀ you are talking idiomatically about a prison window thenĀ that doesn’t look right. If there’s only one bar and unless it’s a very small window – or a very large bar –Ā then the prisoner will be able to escape easily!
  • Meanwhile ‘the bar’Ā has very strong connotations with theĀ part of a pub or restaurant where people sit to drink alcohol. Add ‘behind’ and you get ‘behind the bar’ – the area whereĀ drinks are stored and where the bar staff prepare drinks for customers. Clearly this is not a suitable place for children!

behind-the-bar

I’m sureĀ the writer meant something like this:

šŸ™‚ Famous people are followed everywhere by the press. Their families sometimes feel they have to hide from reporters, and the children of famous people may feel that they are living behindĀ bars.

Now the text carries two correctĀ meanings:

  1. The ‘s’ on ‘bars’ gives us the grammatical meaning some of manyĀ – so, more than one bar. (high score in IELTS writing for grammar)
  2. ‘behind bars’Ā is an idiom – we don’t imagine the children actually in prison, they’re just ‘trapped’ somehow, or their movements are restricted.Ā (high score in IELTS writing for vocabulary)

Be careful with your meanings and choose articles (or ‘s’) with care!

@eapguru

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