As it often happens with the use of articles, we need to make certain assumptions about whether both parties understand what is being referred to.

There is a phrase in a technical manual:

Select the necessary value from the dropdown list

On the one hand, the motivation for using the definite article is that the user must know which of the values is right so this value is rather definite and exclusive.

On the other, the same phrase with the indefinite article seems logical to me as well:

Select a necessary value from the dropdown list

We do not know the value yet so the user is asked to select some value on the list that they find necessary in this particular case.

Which of the options would you use in this case and why?

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    'Select a necessary value' implies that there are various necessary values; selecting just one of them would seem illogical. Use 'Select the necessary value ...' (ie the one you need, not 'a one you need'). Feb 15, 2018 at 10:24

1 Answer 1


Select the necessary value from the dropdown list

For a technical manual I would use the definite article. The definite article refers to a specific value. By virtue of having a technical manual open the assumption is that the user has specific details to hand.

Indefinite article really is generic, like a questionnaire, answers that don't really matter.

For example, if you are selecting the making and model of the car, it is "the" make and model, not "a" make and model.

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