The English article: It seems simple enough, but sometimes it carries just enough nuance to prompt a review of linguistic accuracy.
For example, you’re looking out your front window at home. A car drives past outside. You turn to the person behind you and say, “I saw the car drive down the street.”
Why didn’t you say, “I saw a car drive down the street”?
The reason is that the articles a/an and the communicate definition or a lack thereof.
We use a/an when we want to identify:
We also use an instead of a when the word following begins with a vowel sound: an egg, an omelet, an institute, an honor. A will always be followed by a word that starts with a consonant sound: a box, a trampoline, a hero, a unique opportunity.
We apply the, on the other hand, when we want to distinguish:
Implementing what we’ve established, let’s return to your front window at home, where you could have just as well said you saw a car instead of the car.
But you didn’t, because you identified it as a particular thing known (the car delivering pizza to your neighbor’s party), a definite thing within a larger category (the only Porsche among your neighborhood’s many cars), or something you needed to specify for understanding (the car in which your daughter is returning from college).
Posted on Tuesday, March 21, 2017, at 6:55 pm10 Comments on A/An vs. The