§3.18. Articles and proper names

Suppose we have said that:

In the Ballroom is a man called Mr Darcy.

When the Ballroom is visited, the man is listed in the description of the room as "Mr Darcy", not as "a Mr Darcy". This happened not because Inform recognised that Darcy is a proper name, or even because men tend to have proper names, but because Inform noticed that we did not use "a", "an", "the" or "some" in the sentence which created him. The following shows most of the options:

The Belfry is a room. A bat is in the Belfry. The bell is in the Belfry. Some woodworm are in the Belfry. A man called William Snelson is in the Belfry. A woman called the sexton's wife is in the Belfry. A man called a bellringer is in the Belfry.

In the Belfry is a man called the vicar. The indefinite article of the vicar is "your local".

In the resulting game, we read:

You can see a bat, a bell, some woodworm, William Snelson, the sexton's wife, a bellringer and your local vicar here.

The subtlest rule here is in the handling of "the". We wrote "The bell is in the Belfry", but this did not result in the bell always being called "the" bell: in fact, writing "A bell is in the Belfry" would have had the same effect. On the other hand, "A woman called the sexton's wife is in the Belfry." led to the wife always being known as "the" sexton's wife, not "a" sexton's wife, because Inform thinks the choice of article after "called" shows more of our intention than it would elsewhere. These rules will never be perfect in all situations, so we are also allowed to specify indefinite articles by hand, as the vicar's case shows.

"Some" is worth a closer look, because English uses it in several different ways. By introducing the woodworm with "some", above, we established that it was plural. We might imagine that there are many worms, even though they are represented by a single thing in Inform. We can expect to see text in the story such as:

You can see some woodworm here.
The woodworm are fixed in place.

But suppose we wanted something which there is an amount of, but which is not made up of individual items - a so-called mass noun like "water", or "bread". Now we can write:

The water is here. The indefinite article is "some".

and this time Inform does not treat the "some water" thing as a plural, so we might read:

You can see some water here.
The water is hardly portable.

rather than "The water are hardly portable."

Finally, we can override these settings, if they still come out not as we intend, by explicitly changing the either/or properties "singular-named" (vs "plural-named") and "proper-named" (vs "improper-named").


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*ExampleBelfry
You can see a bat, a bell, some woodworm, William Snelson, the sexton's wife, a bellringer and your local vicar here.

**ExampleGopher-wood
Changing the name of a character in the middle of play, removing the article.