A: What is that book you are reading?

B: Just a book from (a/the) course.

The situation is a friend of mine saw me reading something and I just want to state that it was just one of the books from one of the courses that I took and I don't want to expand on which course is it. "a' sounds more fit for my intention but is it grammatically correct to use "a" there?

  • You probably might want to say "Just a book from a course I took [last semester]". "Just a book from one of my courses," seems fine too. – Damkerng T. Dec 9 '13 at 13:39

Just a book from a course.

The, a definite article, refers to something that is known by both the speaker and the listener. It implies that Person A knows which course you are talking about. Your question makes clear that this is not the case.

If, however, Person A does indeed know which course you are talking about, then it would be proper to answer

Just a book from the course.

It would be common to add I'm taking to the end of "Just a book from a course."

  • 1
    As to your last point, one could also add "I took," if the course is over and done with. – J.R. Dec 9 '13 at 16:09
  • Upvote, good point, however if OP is carrying the book, she is probably still taking the course. Do you remember how heavy textbooks are? – anongoodnurse Dec 9 '13 at 23:07
  • Sure I do. But I also see college bookstores selling e-readers nowadays :^) – J.R. Dec 9 '13 at 23:09

A is used when whatever is being talked about isn't specific and the is used for something that is specific and also referred to directly for example:

Compare: I really like the cake you have made.= The cake being talked about here might be right before the speaker and there might only be one cake or more, but the speaker is focusing on one particular one.

I really like a cake you have made.= Here there may be many more cakes and the speaker might have one particular one in mind but be talking about just one of the many.

  • Wouldn't I really like a cake you have made sound a bit odd? and should be changed to I really like one of the cakes you have made? or It is just totally fine for native speaker? – user49119 May 12 '14 at 11:16
  • It could be said using either one of your suggestions, but how suitable it sounds depends on the context, and yes the second one does sound better. – user74345 May 12 '14 at 22:57

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