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I am not sure what is correct and why - "The list" or "A list"?

The sentence is:

The list of software programs that uses the GDAL library includes Google Earth, ArcGIS, GRASS GIS and many others.

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    The - there's only one universal list of software programs that uses this library and the new apps are added to it as they come out. "A list of software programs" implies there are other lists, and the one mentioned is only one of them. Compare: A list of movies that you might find interesting is Jack's. In this example, there are multiple movie lists, and Jack's list is one of them.
    – Sara
    Commented Dec 18, 2017 at 22:30
  • It's The/A list {of software programs that use the GDAL library} includes Google Earth, ArcGIS, GRASS GIS and many others. Commented Dec 19, 2017 at 0:21
  • Both the and a are correct. It depends on what kind of list is being referred to, and in what communicative context. Commented Dec 19, 2017 at 0:57

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I would use the definite article here and write it exactly the way you did if the list actually exists, or if I wanted to imply that it was only a mental list but that it was the definitive list.

If I changed it to the indefinite article, I would also make the main clause conditional, because it makes the list's existence seem more hypothetical:

A list of software programs that uses the GDAL library might include . . .

You could also change it to the indefinite article and leave it in the present tense, but then you're implying one actual list out of several different lists that people have actually created. It leaves me wanting to know which list.

In your context, the definite article is probably best, because I don't think you are trying to make a reference to any specific created list, but formulating a mental list of all software programs that use GDAL is a real possibility.

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    This is a good answer, but I think one other option deserves at least a mention in a footnote (or in a comment, as it were). One could simply leave out the article and the word list altogether: Software programs that use the GDAL library include Google Earth, ArcGIS, GRASS GIS and many others. Or, perhaps even better: Google Earth, ArcGIS, GRASS GIS are among the many software programs that use the GDAL library.
    – J.R.
    Commented Dec 18, 2017 at 23:17
  • Excellent addition, thank you! I'm in favor of being concise. I do think your first example might be better if it's in the middle of a paragraph where the GDAL library has already been the main topic. Otherwise, you have to wait until the end of the sentence to finally parse out what all of these new proper nouns have to do with the topic at hand. Commented Dec 18, 2017 at 23:25

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