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For example, although I didn't decide to which shop to go, why can't the sentence "I will go to a shop" be accepted.

And what's the difference between these sentences : 1) I left my purse in a car 2) I left my purse in the car

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  • There's nothing grammatically wrong with "I will go to a shop", but if you haven't decided which shop to visit, it would be more natural to say something like "I'm going shopping". As for "I left my purse in a car", it suggests that you have travelled in several different cars today and can't remember which one you left the purse in! – Kate Bunting Oct 9 '17 at 8:17
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I do not know why you believe the first of your examples is unacceptable. It will sound idiomatic to users of at least American Englsh.

"I went to a shop to get some winter clothing" and "I went to the shop to get some winter clothing" are both acceptable English sentences, but they have slightly different meanings. The first sentence does not specify which shop was used because the specific shop is not relevant. The second specifies a particular shop, presumably one defined by a previous sentence or by context.

There is therefore nothing wrong grammatically with your second set of examples. However, the first sentence in that pair is very unlikely to occur because it implies that you definitely know that you left your purse in some car or other, but do not know which car. That set of circumstances could arise, but would certainly be infrequent.

Nor would you use an indefinite article with a place name such as London. "I went to a London" implies that, of the many places named London, the actual one to which you went is irrelevant.

  • I went to a London I had never seen before. – AmE speaker Oct 9 '17 at 20:12
  • And no, I left my purse in a car does not mean the speaker doesn't know which car it was. It means the speaker doesn't think his/her listener won't be able to identify the car. Or that it's not important to the speaker that the listener be able to identify it. – AmE speaker Oct 9 '17 at 20:15
  • @ Clare I agree with your example about " a London never seen before." But that does not leave unspecified which place was seen. It instead describes an unspecified aspect of a specific place. So, admittedly, my answer was overly broad, but I believe appropriate to the sophistication of the question asked. With respect to your other comment, I simply disagree: if which car was being referenced was implicitly understood, the normal usage would be the definite article. – Jeff Morrow Oct 9 '17 at 21:17
  • Clare, I said that "I left my purse in a car" suggests that the speaker doesn't know which car it was. It would be an odd thing to say in any case, but that is one possible interpretation. – Kate Bunting Oct 10 '17 at 8:23

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