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He arrived on __ train and was ready to put his plan into action.

1. The 11.30;

2. A 11.30;

3. 11.30 the;

4. 11.30 a.

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  • Hmmm. We can say "He's leaving on the 11:30" but can we say "He arrived on the 11:30"? Is 11:30 the time the train departs from the local station? And is the 11:30 a reference to the departing train?
    – TimR
    Commented Jul 6, 2018 at 15:47

2 Answers 2

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  1. is the answer that is most likely correct, but there are situations in which 2. may be correct.

He arrived on the 11:30 train and was ready to put his plan into action.

The definite article is used because we are talking about a specific train. It was not any old train, it was specifically the 11:30 train.

However, if the train arrived at a train station, and

1/ more than one train arrived in the station at 11:30, and

2/ the speaker is not sure which of those trains that 'He" arrived on,

then it is possible that the speaker may say:

He arrived on an 11:30 train.

Note: In this case we use 'an 11:30 train' not 'a 11:30 train' because 'eleven' starts with a vowel sound.

In standard English the time of the train (or bus, ferry, plane, etc.) is always placed in front of the mode of transport that is arriving.

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1: "The 11:30 train". Here's why:

It's a specific train, so it has to be the definite article "the". That eliminates options 2 and 4.

11:30 is here being used as an adjective, and in English adjectives go between an article and the corresponding noun. That means options 3 (and, again, 4) cannot be correct.

There are situations in which one might write "an 11:30 train" (notice that because the next word is "11", which starts with a vowel sound, it has to be "an" rather than "a") but in general that's not idiomatic.

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  • I don't completely agree that "it's a specific train, so it must be the definite article." If I know what time he arrived, but I am not sure what day he arrived, I could say, "I can't recall the day, but I know he arrived on an 11:30 train." (As you say, that's an unusual case, but it's nevertheless possible.)
    – J.R.
    Commented Jul 6, 2018 at 17:14

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