From a guideline document:

At least two orthogonal studies should be performed to establish comparability. However, this number is just the recommended minimum, and is not optimal.

Since the first sentence makes the recommendation, I think that it is okay to use the.

At least two orthogonal studies should be performed to establish comparability. However, this number is just a recommended minimum, and is not optimal.

However, since the first sentence does not use the word "recommendation/recommend", I think it is also okay to use a. But would not this a be confusing, implying that there are more than one recommended minimums?

In the end, I'm not sure which article is better to use here.

  • 1
    Can there be more than one "recommended minimum"?
    – user3169
    Commented Jan 19, 2017 at 6:11
  • @user3169 - why not? Different researchers may publish papers favoring this or that minimum. But within the scope of this guideline document, there can be only one, of course. Hm.. so then "a" is okay, I guess Commented Jan 19, 2017 at 6:12
  • I don't know the answer; either one is possible. It can only be decided by the context of your example.
    – user3169
    Commented Jan 19, 2017 at 6:52
  • @user3169 - you can come up with made-up contexts favoring either of the options. That will be helpful to folk who is interested (including me) Commented Jan 19, 2017 at 6:56
  • I think you should use "the" because you're writing a guideline, so I assume you want people to follow your guidelines, of which there can only be one, and so we use "the." Commented Jan 24, 2017 at 10:37

2 Answers 2


The sentence form the document does not strike me as natural. Because yes the number was presented in the previous sentence but the number being a "recommended minimum" is new information that has no bearing on the number.

In other words, the number information was repeated and modified, not the "recommended minimum" information.

So the second sentence is more grammatical.

Another example is :

Fifty people have to attend the seminar . That is a requirement and not an option.

The "fifty" was referenced by "that" and modified. The modifier is new information.


There is actually a rule in English governing using A and then THE.

The general rule is this: Normally, if you are discussing in writing "a subject", it becomes on the second mention of it, "the subject". You can move from A or an S (an apple is good for you; or Apples are good for you) for plural to a THE, since the subject of the discussion HAS BECOME specific.

Example A) A recommended minimum rate is a subject this council needs to debate in the coming months. The discussion is long overdue and the minimum rate it decides on should then be used by the council staff.

Notice: it becomes THE because it is the specific minimum rate the council will decide on.

Example B) If something is already specific in a discussion (I used discussion loosely; it could be a paper, article, etc.), for instance: The minimum wage in the US is considered too low by most people.

Notice: the minimum wage is very specific. It refers to the minimum wage in the US and therefore the /the/ should be maintained throughout the discussion. Generally, one moves from A to THE, but one would not move from THE to A. In this example, one would not use A since the theness {joke} has been established i.e. the specificity of the subject matter.

That is not the long and short of this; it is only the short of it.

  • So in my example it should be a? Commented Jan 21, 2017 at 19:23
  • Yes, right. It is the first mention of it. After that, it would become THE or THIS recommended minimum.
    – Lambie
    Commented Jan 21, 2017 at 19:34

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