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Suppose I gave somebody one tie, then I can say

He's wearing the tie I gave him.

But which article do I have to use if I gave somebody several ties?

He's wearing the tie I gave him.

or

He's wearing a tie I gave him.

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The person (hopefully) is wearing one tie! So, you say:

He's wearing the tie I gave him.

In this case, you gave him only one tie.

Now, you gave him more than one tie. But he is wearing only one of them!

Say,

He's wearing one of the ties I gave him.

If he's weird and wearing many of them, you say:

He's wearing the ties I gave him.

You are specific to talk about the tie that you gave. So, it's the definite article.

If you haven't gave him any, and he's wearing one...

He's wearing a tie.

You are not specific about it; he's wearing some tie, any tie.

  • Do I understand correctly, that if I gave him 2 ties, then neither of phrases (neither "He's wearing the tie I gave him" nor "He's wearing a tie I gave him.") is correct? And the most correct and natural phrase is "He's wearing one of the ties I gave him." ? – DimanNe Nov 23 '17 at 8:47
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    That's correct. It wouldn't be wrong to say "... a tie...", but the most common and natural is "... one of the...". – Jeff Zeitlin Nov 23 '17 at 9:10
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    @DimanNe Though if you said "He's wearing the tie I gave him", it's not even technically wrong. It is the tie you gave him. There just happen to be others as well. It's implied you gave only one tie by saying this though, but sometimes it's just easier to say it this way rather than explain why you say "one of the ties" as the latter leaves an unanswered question. – Neil Nov 23 '17 at 10:31
  • Is using gave as the past participle of give grammatical in your dialect? Because I've never heard of anything but given. – green_ideas Nov 23 '17 at 15:34

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