Unit 67. A/an and the

Here are some more examples:

  • There was a man talking to a woman outside my house. The man looked American, and I think the woman was Indian.

  • When we were on vacation, we stayed at a hotel. In the evenings, sometimes we had dinner at the hotel and sometimes in a restaurant.

  • I saw a movie last night. The movie was about a soldier and a beautiful woman. The soldier was in love with the woman, but the woman was in love with a teacher. So the soldier shot the teacher and married the woman.

    We use a/an when the listener doesn’t know which thing we mean. We use the when it is clear which thing we mean:

  • Tom sat down on a chair, (we don’t know which chair)

    Tom sat down on the chair nearest the door, (we know which chair)

  • Ann is looking for a job. (not a particular job)

    Did Ann get the job she applied for? (a particular job)

  • Do you have a car? (not a particular car)

    I cleaned the car yesterday, (a particular car, my car)

    We use the when it is clear in the situation which thing or person we mean. For example, in a room we talk about “the light / the floor / the ceiling / the door / the carpet,” etc. Study these examples:

  • Can you turn off the light, please? (= the light in this room)

  • Where is the bathroom, please? (= the bathroom in this building/house)

  • I enjoyed the movie. Who was the director? (= the director of the movie)

  • I took a taxi to the station. (= the station of that town)

  • We got to the airport just in time for our flight.
    Also: the police / the fire department / the army.

    We also say the bank, the post office:

  • I have to go to the bank to change some money, and then I’m going to the post office to buy some stamps. (The speaker is usually thinking of a
    particular bank or post office.)

    We also say the doctor, the dentist, the hospital:

  • John wasn’t feeling very well. He went to the doctor. (= his doctor)

  • Two people were taken to the hospital after the accident.

    For the see also Units 68 -73.

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