Q:”in front of” 和 “in the front of” 的意思有很大的不同。前者是指一物在另一物的前面,而後者則指一物在另一物內部的前部,如 There is a desk in front of the chair. (椅子的前面有張書桌);There is a desk in the front of the classroom. (教室的前部有張書桌)。英文中像這樣同一名詞前面有沒有定冠詞 the,意思相差極大的例子一定不少,是否可以再舉幾例說明之?

A:針對這問題,筆者去找了一些資料,發現有幾個類似的例子 (也許還有更多),茲說明如下:

1. in future:日後,往後,今後
in the future:未來,將來

  • Try to do better in future. (今後要努力做得更好)
  • In future, make sure you go to school on time. (今後要確定準時上學)
  • What will you do in the future? (你將來要做什麼?)
  • We’re hoping to move to the United States in the not too distant future. (我們希望在不太久的將來搬到美國去住)

2. in charge of:主管,負責,看管 (含有主動的意味)
in the charge of:在…主管,負責,看管之下 (含有被動的意味)

  • The nurse is in charge of the old men. (這位護士負責照料這些老人)
  • The old men are in the charge of the nurse. (這些老人由這位護士負責照料)
  • Who’s in charge of the department? (誰負責這一部門?)

3. in case of:萬一…發生,如果發生…,要是…,遇到…的時候
in the case of:就…而論,就…來說,至於 (這裡 case 意為「情況」、「實例」)

  • In case of fire, ring the bell. (如果發生火災,請速按鈴)
  • In case of any difficulties, you must consult with your aunt. (萬一碰到困難,你必須跟你阿姨商量)
  • Many people want to be famous singers and make a lot of money, but in the case of me, it’s otherwise. (許多人都想成為名歌手,賺很多錢,但就我而言,情況則不然)

4. in hospital:住院,在醫院裡接受醫療
in the hospital:在醫院裡,指在醫院這個建築物裡面

注意:美式英語也用 in the hospital 來表示 in hospital 的意思 (in university 和 in the university 也有同樣的情況)。除 hospital 外,school, church, market, college, court, prison 等也有類似的用法。當名詞前有 “the” 時,指的是地點、地方、實際的建築物,在用作抽象名詞時,指的則是建築物的功用,說明人在那裡從事相應的活動。

  • His father is in hospital. (他父親在住院)
  • “Where is John?” “He is in the hospital. He goes there to see his sick friend.” (「約翰去哪裡?」「他在醫院,他去看他生病的朋友」)
  • I’m a high school student, and I go to school every day. (我是個中學生,每天上學)
  • My father sometimes goes to the school to speak to the headmaster. (我父親有時會去學校跟校長談話)
  • Are they in church? (他們在做禮拜嗎?)
  • Are they in the church? (他們在教堂裡面嗎?)
  • He is in prison. (他在坐牢)
  • He is in the prison. He is there to see his brother. (他在監獄裡面,他去那裡看他的弟弟)