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"The" vs "A" Please help!! :(

 
 
minoh
 
Reply Tue 3 Feb, 2015 01:04 pm
Hi experts,
This has been bothering me for ages. Can you please tell me why we use the and a in the sentence “This exhibit is a discussion regarding the design of a new circuit board.”
I do understand that the rule of the thumb is we use “the” whenever we are talking about specific and “a” when it is something that is general. Also, I thought we use “a” when we introduce something for the first time. Hence, I thought we used “a” when we wrote, “This exhibit is a discussion” because the discussion was introduced for the first time. Then, my question is, why do we use “the” when writing, “regarding the design” when the design was introduced for the first time? I feel like if we use “a” in front of discussion, we should also use “a” in front of the design since they were BOTH introduced for the first time.
Can you guys please explain the reason why we use “the” as opposed to “a” here and vice versa?
Thank you so much in advance!
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Type: Question • Score: 2 • Views: 437 • Replies: 6
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roger
 
  1  
Reply Tue 3 Feb, 2015 03:05 pm
@minoh,
Well, it might not be the only discussion on that subject.
minoh
 
  1  
Reply Tue 3 Feb, 2015 05:58 pm
@roger,
Hmm.. how about the question regarding why it's "the" vs "a" for the latter part of the sentence?

Thanks for the contribution!
engineer
 
  1  
Reply Tue 3 Feb, 2015 06:11 pm
@minoh,
There is only one design, the one we are talking about. "The" points to a specific thing while "a" refers to one of many or potentially many. If you said we are discussion "a" design for a part, that would mean one possible design When you say we are discussing "the" design, that means the actual design, not one of many.
minoh
 
  1  
Reply Wed 4 Feb, 2015 01:13 pm
@engineer,
@engineer

Thank you for your kind reply. So are we saying that I COULD have used "a design of a new circuit board" if there wasn't already a design that was created but the company is experimenting with different designs? Or would "a design of a new circuit board" just not make sense?
engineer
 
  1  
Reply Wed 4 Feb, 2015 02:24 pm
@minoh,
"Let's talk about a design for a new circuit board" makes sense. I would expand it to say "let's talk about a possible design for a circuit board that we might build."

"Let's talk about a design for the new circuit board" means "let's talk about a possible design for the new circuit board we are building".

"Let's talk about the design for the new circuit board" means "let's talk about the decided upon design for the new circuit board we are building".
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Frank Apisa
 
  1  
Reply Wed 4 Feb, 2015 03:01 pm
@minoh,
"A" and "an" are indefinite articles; "the" is a definite article.

That last sentence could (probably should) be written, "The" is the definite article.


Quote:
...the rule of the thumb is we use “the” whenever we are talking about specific and “a” when it is something that is general. Also, I thought we use “a” when we introduce something for the first time.


Not necessarily.

If I were writing a paper with the first sentence being, "The sun is shining brightly today"...(introducing "the sun" for the first time), you can see that writing it as, "A sun is shining brightly today" would distort what is being said.

If we introduce an unknown for the first time, generally the "a" or "an" would be used. But if it is a known definite thing...even when first introduced, the definite article is preferred.
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