I know that we have to use "the" when the object we mention is specific. But in this case I wonder whether to use "a" or "the"

First our team should identify a / the specific need in the community and then carry out a project to address that need.

  • 1
    Do you expect there to be one thing the community needs (the need) or could there be more, and is your team going to find one, and address it (a need)?
    – oerkelens
    May 14, 2017 at 15:07

2 Answers 2


What you have been taught about the use being specific or not is only part of the story. Just as important is whether the referent is identified within the context of the discourse.

If you say "First the team should identify the specific need..." this implies that the need is already identified, at least to the writer. This might be, as others have suggested, because there is only one need; or it might be for some other reason: perhaps the study is only considering one kind of need, and with that restriction it is already clear what the need is.

The more usual case would be to introduce the need to the disourse with "identify a specific need". Thereafter, the need would be referred to as "the need".


The answer is that you could use either a or the, depending on whether the community has several needs or a particular one.

Imagine that the community was doing okay until a bridge across the river running through it collapsed. In this case, the community has one specific need, the repair of the bridge.

So the specific need here is the bridge repair.

However you might find that the community is badly in need of several kinds of support. In that case you would identify a specific need among the community's many requirements and address that need.

You must log in to answer this question.

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