Could anyone tell why "the" is used in the following sentence?

The person or agency about whom the untrue thing was said can sue the publisher.

It had not been mentioned what untrue thing was said, so why is"a" not used? like "the person or agency about whom an untrue thing..."

  • Just because it hasn't been mentioned doesn't mean it isn't known in the larger context. From one sentence you can't tell.
    – user3169
    Dec 26 '17 at 1:10

Simply because there can exist a number of "untrue things" said about a person but the context is speaking about one in particular (and most obviously there is only one (unique)) that was either mentioned earlier in the text or was clarified elsewhere (meant to be understood by the reader).

For instance:

  • He came into the house and closed the door.

Why "the door"? Because it's obvious which door the author means. "a door" would mean that he randomly chose one of many door in the house and closed it, which would mean no logic.

  • There was not any mentionong that is why I am interested why not "an" is used Dec 25 '17 at 12:15
  • When we are speaking about something that is usually unique within a context (one particular thing) then we use "the" too. There wouldn't obviously be more than one untrue thing said in this context. Dec 25 '17 at 12:19
  • Did the speaker want to emphasize that there was said "the untrue thing" not "the true thing" Dec 25 '17 at 12:31
  • It the only thing come to my mind because there was not any clarification as to what untrue thing was said. Dec 25 '17 at 12:33
  • The author is speaking about a particular untrue thing (something that wasn't true) about the person or agency. This untrue thing is meant to be understood by the reader. probably there was news preceding this sentence or the context was somewhere else, or maybe everybody is discussing it and it is obviously clear what it is. Dec 25 '17 at 12:35

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