I'd like to know whether "the survey online" or "an online survey" should be used in the following:

World Gym has been under new management since July 3. For the new team to better serve our members, please take a few moments and click here to fill out the survey online / an online survey.

I'd appreciate your help.

  • Literally, "the survey online" indicates where the survey is (online), while "an online survey" indicates what kind of survey it is. Practically, they mean the same thing though.
    – user3169
    Commented Jun 14, 2018 at 22:56
  • "the survey" should typically refer to something previously mentioned; but in this case, there is no such referent.
    – Apollyon
    Commented Jun 14, 2018 at 23:05
  • I suggest you use this survey. The word online is hardly necessary. Note that you follow the popular publicity trend (which I deplore) of switching between third person (the new team) and first person (our) - as though the new team.was a different entity to that referred to by our. Commented Jun 14, 2018 at 23:27
  • 1
    @Apollyon - RE: "the survey" should typically refer to something previously mentioned – Not really so. That’s just one of many possible usages for the definite article.
    – J.R.
    Commented Jun 15, 2018 at 1:04
  • I don't know why you think it can't be the online survey or a survey online, because all four mean different things. The survey [that is] online and the online survey refer to a survey known to the speaker (i.e., it's like an internal thing – all of you working on that website are aware of it, and perhaps the survey is mentioned somewhere (else) on the site; or maybe there've been similar surveys before, so people already know there's a designated survey each time someone else joins the team; etc.). In my opinion (non-native speaker, mind), this/our survey works best.
    – user3395
    Commented Jun 15, 2018 at 8:43

2 Answers 2


The chosen article reveals the speaker's thought.

With the the speaker is indicating that he or she believes you will understand (you, being the visitor reading those words) that a survey is normally associated with attempts to get to know users better, and the particular survey in this instance can be reached by clicking the link.

That thought might not even be fully conscious on the speaker's part.

This "previously mentioned" rule must be understood very very very very very broadly, so that it would include under its aegis what is typical or usual under the circumstances. It is a previous encounter not necessarily a previous mention, and the encounter need not have taken place in the immediate speech context. The immediate speech context can allude to a general context where the encounter has occurred or is believed by the speaker to have occurred.


The survey is very specific here. How? Because it says click here. Anything specific i.e. only that thing and nothing else would have the definite article. Take another example and you may understand that -

If you want to register, click here to go to the registration form.

So, registration here is specific for that login, for that page.

Had it been an indefinite article, I would think of some other form or feedback which could be related to the website but not specific to the matter you are talking about.

Finally, ask yourself, is that the only survey for that activity? If yes, then go for the definite article.

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