I would like to know if there is any specific rule on how articles work in set expressions, when adjectives are added.

For instance, 'set the pace' - will the definite article remain if I add an adjective, let us say, 'proper'. Is it still 'set the proper pace' or 'set a proper pace'?

The same for the indefinite article - 'as a result'. In a sentence, where adjective 'good' is added - will it become 'as a good result' or 'as the good result'?

3 Answers 3


Dictionary definition:Pace = a rate of speed

a proper pace and the proper pace can have slightly different meanings.

If we say: The Olympic runners are expected to run at a proper pace. Then this can be taken to mean any pace that is not ridiculously slow.

If we say; The Olympic runners are expected to run at the proper pace. Then this could refer to a specific speed they need to run at in order to qualify for the next race.

Articles are used to modify or refer to nouns regardless of the adjectives you place before a noun (providing the adjectives are correctly used).

As already mentioned the indefinite article refers to something that isn't specific and the definite article refers to a specific noun. Of course, their usage is more complex than this and without seeing every set expression or idiom I can't honestly say that a rule applies to their usage.


Adjectives don't affect articles at all, whether in set expressions or elsewhere.


Yes the article will remain as it wouldn't make sense - definite or indefinite.

For example, in this sentence:

I set the/a proper pace in order, now the only thing to do is wait.

Whether it is the article, the or a, depends on its usage. If the definite article 'the' was used, then the reader automatically assumes it is talking about [something] specific, that was perhaps fore-mentioned.

The indefinite article 'a' can refer to anything "I set a proper pace in order, now the only thing to do is wait" The indefinite article here is talking about something non-specific, generic. For example a person can talk about the pencil, but a pencil can refer to anything.

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