Sentences that answer on the question "what is this" (for example when I ask someone who learns English) should get an article?

For example:

Q. what is this?
A. This is (a?) table.

  • 2
    The presence of a preceding question has no relevance to the syntax of a simple statement such as This is an X. The article is normally required unless X is being used as an abstract, uncountable, or mass noun. Or a proper noun, so This is John refers to a person called John, whereas This is a john would be a slang usage meaning This is a toilet. Dec 30 '17 at 14:59
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    @MP I see by your profile that you welcome corrections of your English. "Sentences that answers" has a plural subject and singular form of the verb and so is wrong. It should be "A sentence that answers." Furthermore, "answer" as a verb should not be supplemented with "on." It should read "A sentence that answers the question." Dec 30 '17 at 15:24
  • Thank you @FumbleFingers Thank you Jeff in this case it was a typo. Dec 30 '17 at 17:12

It depends on what is being asked about and how it is being answered.

If the answer is framed to indicate that what is being asked about is one member of a class, then the indefinite article is needed.

"This is a dog" indicates that this is merely one example of a broader class.

If the answer is framed to indicate that what is being asked about is the sole member of a class, then the definite article.

"This is the dog that I got for Christmas" indicates that I got only one dog for Christmas.

EDIT: In response to FumbleFingers comment, I fully agree that, grammatically, an answer to a question follows the same rules as any other indicative sentence. There are no special rules of grammar for answers. What I had in mind with my initial response is that answers come within a factual and social context, which in turn influences the indicative sentence chosen. If A, a visitor to New York City, is riding on the Staten Island ferry and points to a large statue while exclaiming "What is that," both "That is a large statue" and "That is the Statue of Liberty" are grammatical. Only the latter, however, is socially and factually relevant. The grammar of an answer may be affected by the meaning of the question. I did not mean to imply that answers have a special grammar.

  • Is it possible anyway to say "This is table" or always it is (a) mistake? Dec 30 '17 at 17:14
  • It is a mistake because "table" is a countable noun. It would be correct to say "This is wine" because "wine" can act as a non-countable noun. See again fumblefingers' first comment. Dec 30 '17 at 17:25
  • I got it. thank you. Anyway I think the answer should start with the clear answer . "You should always use article when the noun is countable and depends on what you want to say you should add the article a or the" Dec 30 '17 at 17:26
  • "You should always use an article ... " The noun "article" is countable. Cheers. Dec 30 '17 at 17:39

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