I am (almost) sure, it would be correct to say this

"I'll give him a wonderful name"


"I'll give him the famous name Macavity"

But what about these?

"I'll give him (a? the?) wonderful name, Macavity"

"I'll give him (a? the?) wonderful name, viz. Macavity"?

  • Does the name "Macavity" already exist before you give him that name?
    – TimR
    Commented Jan 2, 2017 at 1:01
  • I think all sentences with both articles can be correct in specific context.
    – Abbasi
    Commented Jan 2, 2017 at 7:02
  • @TRomano, Suppose, it does (I don't feel the difference).
    – Serguei
    Commented Jan 2, 2017 at 9:49
  • 1
    Also, you can use the only with a name that already exists. But the test for existence is not stringent. The name needs to exist merely in the speaker's mind. If you use the with a name your listener has never heard of before (because you just made the name up) you're expecting the listener to understand that you just made the name up when you use "the name {X}"; you are not expecting the listener to think the name does exist but is simply one he is unfamiliar with. You are conferring existence upon the name by fiat. We all have the power to name a cat whatever we like.
    – TimR
    Commented Jan 2, 2017 at 12:41
  • 1
    "I will name him {X}" creates no expectations about the name's previous existence, whereas "I will give him the name {X}..." creates an expectation that the name about to be spoken already exists.
    – TimR
    Commented Jan 2, 2017 at 12:46

1 Answer 1


Your first two surmises are exactly correct. The third one must be the, and the 4th one a.

The reason why the 4th one is a is, as you probably already know, because the "videlicet" (viz.) breaks the sentence and makes the first clause independent. It can stand by itself as a well-formed sentence, and since it's indefinite in construction (the specific name doesn't appear til the dependent clause), it needs a.

(You don't need the comma after "name" in sentence 3, but it's okay -- just a bit Germanic-looking)

  • What's "Germanic" about the comma?
    – TimR
    Commented Jan 2, 2017 at 1:03
  • German writing looks like Colonial-era English writing: lots more commas than are common in English writing today.
    – MMacD
    Commented Jan 2, 2017 at 11:39

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