1. ohmyrichard
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    ohmyrichard Active Member

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    A wrong person or the wrong person?

    Discussion in 'Word Mechanics' started by ohmyrichard, Feb 26, 2009.

    Hi,everyone.
    This afternoon when I came back home from work, I checked my email box at 163.com and found that someone had sent me by mistake an email which was actually intened for someone named Michael. I sent an email to this funny guy, saying to him, "I'm sorry to tell you that you've sent your letter to the wrong person." But I was and still am not sure whether I should have used "...to a wrong person". I googled it but found no clue to help me. Now the letter has already been sent out and I am sure it has reached him. I cannot do anything to revise it, but I still want to know which expression is correct, "to a wrong person" or "to the wrong person". I always want to be accurate and correct in expression. Please help me to learn English well.
    Thanks in advance for your help.
    Yours,
    Richard
     
  2. Gannon
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    Gannon Contributing Member Contributor

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    Definite article 'the' is the more natural to the native speaker. Indefinite 'a' seems, somewhat ironically, to be wrong in this example. On a seperate point, when a letter is returned having been sent to the wrong address, it is often marked 'not known at this address' so could be something you may wish to consider for future instances.
     
  3. Xeno
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    Xeno Mad and Bitey Contributor

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    It's normally THE wrong person, at least that's what I do. "You've sent this to the wrong person" yeah that's right.
     
  4. Dalouise
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    Dalouise Contributing Member

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    I agree with the other posters. I might expect to see "a" in connection with "a wronged person", which is something a little different! :D
     
  5. Rei
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    Rei Contributing Member Contributor

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    I don't know if this makes any sense, but if I were to read "a wrong person" I would think "one of many" or something like that, and you are only refering to yourself. So, yeah, whatever logic I am lacking, I still say,"the."
     
  6. flashgordon
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    flashgordon Contributing Member

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    A wrong person is someone who is mentally not all there. The wrong person is not the intended recipient.
     
  7. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    gannon... it's an email, so i doubt that would apply in this case, though of course it's s.o.p. for snail mail...

    there's something else to be considered here and that's the sly sneakiness of computer pests these days... it's entirely possible that a 'mistake' could be a clever way to get the recipient to respond, thus leaving them open to attack...

    not that this one was, since i've also gotten mail by mistake, the sender having clicked on my line in their address book instead of the one above or below it, but it's something you should all be aware of and watch out for...
     
  8. ohmyrichard
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    ohmyrichard Active Member

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    Thank you all for your replies. Very often we non-native speakers find it so difficult to differentiate subtle differences of English words or expressions. Even though we may have worked hard at English, it is near impossible to acquire that linguistic intuition that native speakers have. For example, in this case, I will just learn it by rote that "to the wrong person" is the correct form.
    Thanks again.
    Richard
     
  9. ohmyrichard
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    ohmyrichard Active Member

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    Thanks, flashgordon. But by "someone who is mentally not all there", do you mean "someone who is mentally ill"?
    Thanks.
     
  10. ohmyrichard
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    ohmyrichard Active Member

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    Thanks for reminding me.
     
  11. ohmyrichard
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    ohmyrichard Active Member

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    Thanks, Dalouise. Then what does "a wronged person" mean?
     
  12. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    ...yes, that's what it means...

    ...it's someone to whom a wrong was done... such as if someone spread a false rumor about you... or a woman whose husband cheated on her...
     
  13. Atari
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    Atari Active Member

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    The odd thing about this quandary is that a may be technically correct and, furthermore; more appropriate.

    The wrong person implies that there is only one, specific person who would be wrong, whereas a wrong person is, as others have stated, one of many wrong persons.

    Since EVERYONE would be 'a' wrong person save for the one correct person, then a should technically be more appropriate than the, regardless of the fact that most (if not all) English speakers would use the latter article.
     
  14. ohmyrichard
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    ohmyrichard Active Member

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    Thanks,mammamaia.
     
  15. ohmyrichard
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    ohmyrichard Active Member

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    You said the right thing. This is why I often find English so funny a language. But I also find my native language funny in the same way. Of course we may say language is not logic, but when it does go illogical, it creates a barrier to learners' understanding and mastery of it.
    Thanks for your explanation.
     

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