'The quick brown fox…' : Articles in proverbs


In any language proverbs are generalised and fixed phrases expressing ‘folk wisdom’. :slight_smile:

(But only a few languages use that :slight_smile: articles. )

Could you explain why do you use definite articles in some proverbs:
The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog.

whereas in others you use indefinite one:
An old dog will learn no new tricks. :slight_smile:

and sometimes that articles are both definite and indefinite in the same phrase… with no hope for me to find a rule :lol: :frowning: :
The mouse lordships where a cat is not. :shock:


Hi Tamara,

Your first example of the fox is used as a way of testing a typewriter by using all the letters of the alphabet and is known as a pangram, apparently. As for the others, well that would take a deal of time to work them all out.

possibly any old dog is suggested here.

Never heard that before! I can only suggest that the is used before mouse because that is the creature that’s the boss when there is no cat/not any cat/not a cat around.


Hi Alan

Thank you for you response.

Yes, Alan, I know that.
The phase is often used (in software) to demonstrate various fonts – because of that its useful feature – but I mistakenly considered it as a proverb.
I’ll easily change it, no problem. :slight_smile:

The wolf may lose his teeth, but never his nature.
Why the?

In my “dictionary of English proverbs” it is given as an equivalent for When the :slight_smile: cat is away the mice play".


So… when looking at the list of English proverbs I’m still feeling no hope to cope with articles… :frowning:

Ah! I’ve forgotten to add cases with no (zero?) article…
Dog eat(s?) dog.

Hi Tamara

I consider “dog eat dog” to be an adjective (which should probably also be hyphenated). :wink:

It’s a dog-eat-dog world.

(But that doesn’t explain the missing “s”, does it?) :lol: