Clara first bought the five-room house, including the kitchen and bathroom, for $3,000 in 1994. (source)

This is the first time ever the article mentions the house's kitchen and bathroom, so shouldn't both be preceded by indefinite articles? Why does the definite article occur here and why is there only one of it?

I thought a sensible sentence should look like:

Clara first bought the five-room house, including a kitchen and a bathroom, for $3,000 in 1994.

  • It's the kitchen because there's only one that we could possibly be talking about. "A kitchen" means something like "any random kitchen". "The first time something is mentioned" is not a very precise rule for when to use the definite or indefinite article.
    – stangdon
    Commented May 18, 2018 at 14:18
  • stangdon, it is a fact that in formal writing, as borne out in this article (which you have to click through to), the article says "a house" first and at its second mention, it becomes the house. The definite article the is therefore inextricably associated with a house. And yes, that is a rule in English writing. And also, works in a lot of speech as well.
    – Lambie
    Commented May 20, 2018 at 15:39
  • "donations have been pouring in for a dilapidated home" [random]. Next mention is "she bought the house". In this context, a home and house are synonyms. It is a stylistic writing rule. That said, "a is for identity not known" and the is for identity known. So when you mention again a thing that had an indefinite article, you then use the definite article. Here are the rules for definite and indefinite: butte.edu/departments/cas/tipsheets/grammar/articles.html
    – Lambie
    Commented May 20, 2018 at 15:50
  • I have just made a comment [first mention] above this comment. **The comment**[second mention] is intended to clarify why in writing, an indefinite article is used first for something that is not identified and once it is, the definite article is used.
    – Lambie
    Commented May 20, 2018 at 15:55

2 Answers 2


Short answer

It's assumed that the five-room house already has a kitchen and a bathroom, and the reader is reasonably expected to make that assumption. Therefore, "the" is appropriate.

Also, "the kitchen and bathroom" can be written as "the kitchen and the bathroom", but the latter is too wordy and thus omitted for conciseness. In "the kitchen and (the) bathroom", the second "the" is understood.


The rule for "the" isn't necessarily for its noun to have already been mentioned beforehand. Rather, if the reader (listener) can be expected to reasonably answer the question, "which one?", then "the" is appropriate.

In the case of the sentence you posted, the writer says "including the kitchen and bathroom". The reader can ask "which kitchen and bathroom?", and the reader should be reasonably expected to answer it: "the kitchen and bathroom (in the five-room house)".

  • 1
    I agree that the is fine here. However, I think the sentence would have read more naturally as including its kitchen and bathroom. Commented May 18, 2018 at 6:14
  • @JasonBassford, "its" sounds unnatural to me. "I cleaned the house yesterday, including its windows" : I think not.
    – JavaLatte
    Commented May 19, 2018 at 0:57
  • @JavaLatte Hmm. It still sounds like something I might say. Especially if there is a sense of quantity: I cleaned the house yesterday—including all of its many windows. Commented May 19, 2018 at 20:28
  • Why use "the" to begin with? That's the point.
    – Lambie
    Commented May 20, 2018 at 15:51

In the article, we are told she moved into "a dilapidated house".

Then, we see "she bought the five-room house".

This follows the a/the rule perfectly.

I bought a house. The house is small.

The rule is that if you mention a something, the next mention of it will be with a the.

"He has a very fast car. But the car sits in the garage and he never drives it."

The first mention of an object, person or idea is often indeterminate and takes a and as soon as it becomes specific the second mention you mention it, it takes the.

This is one of the simplest rules about a/the.

And if you have a thing that has become specific with definite article the, the other specific things associated with it are also specific.

I bought a house yesterday. The house and the garage were painted purple.

There is only one house and one garage. The house didn't have just any garage, a garage. It was the garage that was associated with the house.

  • This doesn't answer either of the points in the question, namely 1) why does kitchen get a definite article, despite the fact that the kitchen has never been mentioned before, and 2) why does bathroom not get an article, definite or indefinite?
    – JavaLatte
    Commented May 18, 2018 at 1:03
  • @JavaLatte Right, so I edited my answer.
    – Lambie
    Commented May 18, 2018 at 12:53
  • Better, but why leave in all the "the/a house" stuff? The OP didn't ask about that. And you still don't answer the second point.
    – JavaLatte
    Commented May 19, 2018 at 0:53
  • I left it in because in the actual article, it says "a house", first mention and the second mention (which this question is about) then would and does become "the house" (in this specific article) so anything that accompanies "the house" also can take a the. The house with the bathroom and the kitchen cost $3,000. They were not a random kitchen or bathroom. compare: the [specific] house cost $3,000, but that did not include a bathroom and a kitchen [random]. to: But that did not include the bathroom and kitchen, which cost another $2000, for example.
    – Lambie
    Commented May 19, 2018 at 13:25
  • To be clear, the use of "the house" is only used because at the very beginning of the article "a house" is used. You cannot explain "the house" here without reference to "a house". Once "a house" becomes "the house", the one that costs x, whatever accompanies it follows the "the" specificity rule.
    – Lambie
    Commented May 19, 2018 at 13:28

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