What is the difference between:

There is a banana there.


There is one banana there.

In both sentences it seems that the meaning is the same, if "one banana" equals to "a banana".


The difference in meaning is subtle.

There is a banana on the sideboard might be said in response to the statement I'd like a banana if you have any. That answer may mean that there is only one banana on the sideboard or that there are several bananas there. The exact number is not relevant; the indefinite article recognizes that irrelevancy.

There is one banana on the sideboard definitely implies that there is only one. Number is considered relevant and so is specified.

Because the first formulation may be used to express the same factual situation as the second, people may incorrectly use the second when really they merely mean the first, particularly in casual speech.

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