no *the* in "from beginning to end"

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1

We listened to the old man tell his story from beginning to end.

How come that it is not from the beginning to the end? It is the beginning and the end of the particular story. The only explanation I can think of is that from beginning to end is kind of an idiomatic adverb meaning completely, and you cannot alter this adverb.

Graduate

Posted 2014-02-17T12:42:05.147

Reputation: 7 310

*tell his story...? – Maulik V – 2014-02-17T12:55:34.813

@MaulikV: Yes, it is from the Murphy's grammar, if trust this book – Graduate – 2014-02-17T12:58:24.900

Answers

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Your explanation is right. It's an idiomatic phrase. I don't think "from the beginning to the end" sounds bad, if you want to say that.

In general this idiom is "productive," i.e. you can do the same construction whenever you mean the whole scope of something. So, "I scanned the wall from top to bottom," "I ran the race from start to finish," etc. And in all of these examples it's fine to put "the" in front of both nouns or neither. (Don't put "the" in front of one noun, since you can't mix the idiomatic phrase with normal speech.) "From A to Z" is another common one.

hunter

Posted 2014-02-17T12:42:05.147

Reputation: 5 916

2also: from front to back, from left to right, from soup to nuts, from head to toe, from dawn to dusk, not to mention all the "from X to X" idioms: from time to time, from side to side, from coast to coast, from ear to ear, from door to door, from point to point – nohat – 2014-02-18T07:06:12.133

-1

I cannot agree the use is idiomatic. Too many phrases follow the pattern. An idiom is "a speech form or an expression of a given language that is peculiar to itself" (American Heritage dictionary)

The articles, a or the, can help map contexts.

A. One example of how careful we have to be is when we’re analyzing the carbon dioxide in Earth’s atmosphere ...

http://climate.nasa.gov/blog

B. Because the moon has moved in relation to the Earth... https://www.nasa.gov/feature/goddard/from-a-million-miles-away-nasa-camera-shows-moon-crossing-face-of-earth

Example A is an earthling perspective. Example B is a Solar System view.

Similarly, we can be welcomed in the Yellowstone by the US National Park Service (there are many parks, Yellowstone is a national park). We can go to Yellowstone from Treasure, for example (we are not taking other parks into account).

This is not to imply there could be many Earths or many Yellowstones. ;)

If you describe a beginning and an end, you can say "from the beginning to the end", as well. :)

It is good to consider how we can think about language. We do not have to seek objective truths and try to tell what this is we must put in our heads (you are seeking "an explanation").

Someone might say,

Yes, the articles help me map cognitively.

Another person would say,

There was this book and it had the articles this way, and I like it.

We can be better off thinking how we can reckon and what works for us, rather than objectively rules or explanations. There might be no such principles, after all. Grammars books are written by people. :)

Teresa Pelka

Posted 2014-02-17T12:42:05.147

Reputation: 1

No native speaker of American English is going to welcome you to The Yellowstone, unless they are being ironic along the lines of The Donald. There is only one Yellowstone no matter how many national parks there are. – Alan Carmack – 2016-05-06T05:34:13.283

Alan, I hope you admit there is no other Earth in the talk, either. Here is a link about the Yellowstone, http://www.yellowstonenationalpark.com/. I want to include my work on the articles with the third part of my grammar book, so I would not be "pouring out" here. Feel welcome to my grammar blog, the two parts so far, https://travelingrammar.com/

– Teresa Pelka – 2016-05-07T19:43:47.360

No, it is a link about Yellowstone. You can read the whole site about Yellowstone and you won't find one example of the Yellowstone. One possible usage for the definite article would be something like the Yellowstone I knew in the 1990s is not the same as the Yellowstone of today. – Alan Carmack – 2016-05-07T22:49:06.927

As for the Earth versus Earth, you can read quite a bit of discussion by native speakers here: About definite article before "Earth", "Moon" and "Sun".

– Alan Carmack – 2016-05-07T23:04:33.660

I am happy you say there are such possible uses. I have never thought about the articles as especially ironic. One might be ironic and use an article, but that would be an individual matter to show by the context, as usage itself does not have any irony or sarcasm about it. // A linguist’s job is to think about usage and make a concept that can help manage. A grammar cannot be built just on listed examples. – Teresa Pelka – 2016-05-09T09:48:48.103

Students are often sensitive to chunking. If to say “there is the river Yellowstone, and you always put the definite article with a river name”, most students would be as inquisitive as to ask “why Stratford-on-Avon”, however learning American. // My approach has been to reckon how we CAN think and make grammatical language. There is no sense seeking what language semantics, word meaning, would universally be. // Everyone is capable of nonsense, but some logic is just natural to people, I can think. :) Therefore, my idea is we can think about extents, or sets. – Teresa Pelka – 2016-05-09T09:49:54.683

For Earth and the Earth, the discussion you showed me would affirm: when it is the planet to make the extent, we do not use the article. When the outer space belongs with the extent or set, we use the article. We cognitively or logically map the planet within a wider set. Again, it is to reckon how we can think, not to tell what everybody thinks, and not to make people “suspicious” of the definite article or its absence. // Obviously, I do intend to explain why “Yellowstone”, without the article, is a prevalent form for the park. Thank you for your comment. :) – Teresa Pelka – 2016-05-09T09:50:03.757