I'm trying to confirm my understanding of something in a fairly technical document.

The generalised statement is "For a %noun% the %noun% will have %attribute%."

My first instinct would be that this would apply to the general case for that type of noun due to the use of "will have".
eg. "For a car the car will have wheels." as all cars (at least drivable ones) do have wheels.

On my second reading I reconsidered, would the use of "a" as in "For a" make the sentence applicable to only a specific case?
eg. "For a car the car will be red." in the case of having seen a red car we can say that there does exist a car that will be red, we are not making a claim about the general case for the colour of all cars.

Could anyone let me know, are either correct? Is one or the other preferable? Would specifically one be correct within the context of being used in a technical document?

Thanks in advance!

  • This question would be easier to answer if you provided an excerpt from the technical document itself. "For a car the car will have wheels" sounds like lousy English to me, but put the right nouns into a technical document, and that sentence structure might work just fine.
    – J.R.
    Commented May 26, 2017 at 14:50

1 Answer 1


"For a [noun]" is used to speak about any instance of that noun; an indefinite one while "For the [noun]" is used to speak about a definite instance of that noun.

  • For a newly created document please specify paper size and document name..
  • For the tools menu we have added a new feature.
  • Thanks for the answer! I am curious if you might know a bit more about the specific usages, for example given the conversation: "Where are you going?" - "For a sandwich." would not imply to me that I'm going for the general case of any sandwich, but for a specific one. I assume this is due to the implied "I'm going..." that is omitted from the beginning of "For a sandwich."?
    – Scottmeup
    Commented May 26, 2017 at 12:30
  • @Scottmeup I'm not native but "for a sandwich" doesn't sound right to me in this context. I'd say "to get (have, buy, eat, order) a sandwich" but not "for a sandwich". Commented May 26, 2017 at 13:50
  • @Scott - "I'm going out for a sandwich" is normal, idiomatic English. The answer here parrots a general truth about "for a" vs. "for the", but choosing the right article is not always so cut-and-dried. Sometimes it's context dependent, and exceptions can be found.
    – J.R.
    Commented May 26, 2017 at 14:39

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