Should one use an article before a description, as in You should stick to _ rule "think quality". or Look at _ sign "Elderly people"! ? I guess the same rule used as in "Room 4" or "Table 2", i.e. no article used, but who knows... Either way, actually I think this structure sounds a little bit awkward.

  • What research have you done, and why do you distrust it? Simplify the sentences: look at sign vs look at the sign - which seems correct? See the ngram for one versus the other: ngram
    – Davo
    Feb 21, 2017 at 16:49
  • @Davo The latter, of course. But this simplification doesn't explain why. Could you please give me the rule?
    – Rusty
    Feb 21, 2017 at 17:04
  • And I don't trust the ngram in terms of articles: articles can APPEAR before any word in English, although they REFER only to a certain kind of words
    – Rusty
    Feb 21, 2017 at 17:12
  • 1
    You use the because the 'speaker' of the sentence assumes the hearer can identify which rule (or sign) you are referring to, and this is easily assumed because the rule or sign is actually given in the context. Even when it is not explicitly given (as in look at the sign) , the same assumption applies. Feb 21, 2017 at 17:14
  • ngrams do not work for explaining things, really. They just show some thing is "out there".
    – Lambie
    Feb 21, 2017 at 17:33

1 Answer 1


There is a place, with a specific rule: You should stick to the rule.

[Did you notice above how I moved from "a rule" there to "the rule"? That's one usage: going from a/an x to the x.]

Therefore, in these sentences: You should stick to _ rule "think quality". or Look at _ sign "Elderly people"!

You should use the: You should stick to the rule "think quality". ///Look at the sign "Elderly people"! ?

1) Rule one: If there is only one of a thing in your limited context: Use the

2) If you move from An Apple to the apple on the table, use the.

Question: "There was an apple around here somewhere. Have you seen it?" Answer: "Yes, I did. I saw the apple. It's on the table over there."

Question: "What do you think of the rule about wearing shoes in the house?" [limited context, only one rule] Answer: "I like it, I like the rule". [or that rule]

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