Let's assume I have a lot of everything (motherboards,glasses etc) From specific to not-specific

The motherboard is broken but NOT A motherboard is broken

A Glass is broken and the glass is broken - Both are correct

A chair is broken and the chair is broken - Both are correct

A tree is broken and the tree is broken - Both are correct

It's all according to my New Zealander teacher. What makes a motherboard so special? What if I would talk about a PC?

  • Don't think I've heard of a "broken" tree, though,
    – user3169
    Feb 17, 2017 at 3:54
  • If a stem is broken, can I say so in this instance? Feb 17, 2017 at 3:57
  • It really depends on context. You could say "A motherboard is broken" in the context of the act of picking up a motherboard and breaking it.
    – user3169
    Feb 17, 2017 at 3:58
  • I was just saying we don't think of trees as "breaking", rather "splitting", "falling down", "toppling" etc.
    – user3169
    Feb 17, 2017 at 4:03

1 Answer 1


Using "the" implies you have a specific something in mind which you are referring to or which is understood by context.

the motherboard = a specific motherboard in the box

Using a implies you are referring to *any one of a collection of something

a motherboard = any one of the motherboards in the box

"Motherboard" in and of itself is not a special noun, however most people will know there is only one motherboard in a computer.

  • Will it be a mistake to say:"A motherboard is broken"? If I have a few computers in my house? Feb 17, 2017 at 3:55
  • 1
    It would be correct to say "A motherboard is broken." You will probably immediately be asked "Which one?"
    – Peter
    Feb 17, 2017 at 4:08
  • Why so my teacher told me that "A motherboard is broken" is not correct even if I have 2 of them? Feb 17, 2017 at 8:46
  • Your teacher is probably assuming you are talking about a motherboard in a computer: "the motherboard is broken", "the mouse does not work", "the screen is broken"
    – Peter
    Feb 17, 2017 at 16:30

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .