Suppose you and your friend are trying to log in someone else's computer (you are trying to hack someone else's computer) and the screen prompts you to enter password.

Would you say "we need a password" or "we need the password" to your friend?

In the series Archer one character says "we need a password" while trying to log in someone else's computer. Is this correct?

  • 1
    Interesting to think how this depends on the specific setup. Will only one password work, say for a particular computer, or will a number of passwords work, assuming they are matched with the correct username. The password makes more sense in a less connected system whereas a password applies in this world in the cloud(s)
    – Unrelated
    Jan 24, 2017 at 21:12
  • If it was the type of computer used by multiple people 'a' could work. Back in the old days there were these things called terminals where people had a keyboard and a dos shell and you'd sit dow at one in a room of many of them and enter your password. If if were a single user computer and you assumed there was one password, you'd use 'the' password. ('his password could also work')
    – Tom22
    Jan 24, 2017 at 21:13
  • If they initially thought a password might not be required, then saying, “we need a password” might make sense when first confronted by the password challenge.
    – Jim
    Jan 24, 2017 at 21:21
  • Or, if they knew they were going to try to crack the password and had someone who was tasked with providing passwords to try, the person getting ready to type the password might ask for a (potential) password.
    – Jim
    Jan 24, 2017 at 21:23
  • Or, ... there have been a series of obstacles to reaching this point in the process and, wouldn't you believe it, now we need a password (what next?).
    – Dan
    Jan 24, 2017 at 22:42

2 Answers 2


They're kind of interchangeable, but "the" would be more accurate in the way that you're using it because it's more specific. You don't just need any password, "a" password. You need the right one, in which case you should use "the".

  • A: "I need a password."
  • B: "My bank password? My phone password?"
  • A: "The bank password."



"I need a password" implies that one password may open multiple areas. "The password" implies that it is needed to open one area.

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