1

If I write the sentence below without an article, it will be wrong, and the article required is definite (the):

[1a] *​May I use phone in your office?
[1b] May I use the phone in your office?

If I write message without an article, it will also be wrong, but the article required will be indefinite (a).

[2a] *​I will leave voice message.
[2b] I will leave a voice message.

Why are 1a is wrong and 1b is correct? What is the difference between 2a and 2b?

migrated from english.stackexchange.com Oct 25 '16 at 11:46

This question came from our site for linguists, etymologists, and serious English language enthusiasts.

  • I have edited your question quite a bit. Please make sure that the rephrasing asks the questions you want answered. – deadrat Oct 25 '16 at 6:16
  • Thank you deadrat and sumelic. Yes it is still the correct question I had asked. Let's wait for clear answer of this question – Trevor Oct 25 '16 at 6:24
  • The phone already exists. The message does not yet. – michael.hor257k Oct 25 '16 at 6:31
  • 3
    The difference between 1b and 2b, is simply that people receive multiple voice messages, thus necessitating the indefinite article when speaking of just one of them. But usually they have only one phone, calling for the definite. If there were several phones in the office, you might say a phone in your office. Or if you were referring to people with phones, you could use the indefinite - e.g. I just heard a phone ring somewhere. – WS2 Oct 25 '16 at 6:33
  • Welcome to ELU. See also English Language Learners – Kris Oct 25 '16 at 7:11
0

May I use the phone in your office?

Once you establish the context of your office, you can use the with anything that can reasonably be expected to be found in and/or associated with the office: the chair (in your office), the desk (in your office), the phone (in your office), the floor (in your office), etc.

As for

I will leave a voice message.

You use a because you are leaving one voice message among many possible voice messages. You don't assume your hearer can identify which voice message you are talking about, other than it is one that you will leave.

On the other hand, you can say

I will leave the voice message.

if you expect that the person you are talking to can identify which voice message you are talking about. Maybe it's one you have talked about before, maybe it's one that the person who you are calling told you to leave. This is similar to

I will forward you the voice message

or

Do you wanna listen to the voice message?

With the, you assume that the person you are talking to can identify which voice message you are talking about. If you don't assume that, than you'd likely use a in these sentences.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.