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Do I need to change the indefinite article "a" before a noun into the definite "the" if I provide some definitive information for that noun right after it?

I brought this trinket from a workshop.

I brought this trinket from (a/the?) workshop built by our neighbor Billy Brown right in the center of our village in 1925.

EDIT:

There are several workshops built by Billy Brown in the center of the village. There is a possibility that only this one was built in 1925, but nobody knows for sure

  • Did you make this sentence yourself? That "built" conveys to me the workshop had been built by Billy, not the trinket. I am a learner though. – Cardinal Sep 5 '18 at 3:37
  • @Cardinal I think so, since we usually make trinkets (being small items), rather than build them. – user3169 Sep 5 '18 at 4:00
  • How many workshops were "built by our neighbor Billy Brown right in the center of our village in 1925"? singular/plural determines the article. Prior knowledge needs to be implied into the current statement, however your previous statement doesn't add any information. – user3169 Sep 5 '18 at 4:04
  • @Cardinal - "Did you make this sentence yourself?" - Yes. "That "built" conveys to me the workshop had been built by Billy" - That's correct. – brilliant Sep 5 '18 at 4:18
  • @user3169 - "How many workshops were "built by our neighbor Billy Brown right in the center of our village in 1925"?" - There are several workshops built by him in the center of the village. There is a possibility that only this one was built in 1925, but nobody knows for sure. – brilliant Sep 5 '18 at 4:20
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The OP asks "Do I need to change the indefinite article "a" before a noun into the definite "the" if I provide some definitive information for that noun right after it?"

In my view the answer is yes - it is necessary to change the indefinite article if some definite information is provided. However, at all times context is key. In this case there are three pieces of information provided, but the challenge is to establish which is truly definitive. We are told:

  1. the workshop was built by Billy Brown
  2. the workshop was in the center of town, and
  3. the workshop may or may not have been built in 1925.

I suggest that it is only the age of the building that is the truly definitive piece of information. Where the age is critical to determining the sense of the text, then the use of the definite article is required.

In this scenario, our context is the knowledge that Billy Brown built several workshops over the years, and that this workshop is thought to have been the only one built in 1925, but no one knows for sure.

"I brought this trinket from a workshop."
This is indiscriminate; the characteristics of the workshop are unknown.

"I brought this trinket from a workshop built by our neighbor Billy Brown right in the center of our village in 1925."
We know Billy Brown built many workshops in the center of town; however we don't know whether there are also other workshops of a similar age in the town center. Accordingly, one might interpret the use of "a" as to imply that the trinket was bought from a "Billy Brown" workshop as opposed to one not built by Brown. Rather like saying "I bought this at a Nike store", or "I bought this at a Walmart".
Though the age attributed to the workshop is false, it is also irrelevant since the age of the workshop is irrelevant to the meaning of the sentence. The text might just as reasonably read "I brought this trinket from a workshop. The workshop was built by our neighbor Billy Brown right in the center of our village in 1925."

However, let's assume that there are no workshops in the town other than those built by Billy Brown. In this case, the use of the indefinite article is still justified because, in this context, the additional information is merely descriptive. The writer provides more information about the workshop.

"I brought this trinket from the workshop built by our neighbor Billy Brown right in the center of our village in 1925."
We know that i) Billy Brown built several workshops, 2) one workshop was built in 1925, and iii) it is possible, but uncertain, that this particular workshop was built in 1925. As before, we don't know whether there are other workshops of a similar age in the town center. In this case, the age of the workshop is of significance and the use of "the" is essential to distinguish one Billy Brown workshop from another. The text might just as reasonably read "I brought this trinket from a workshop. The workshop was built by our neighbor Billy Brown right in the center of our village. It's thought that this particular workshop might have been the one built in 1925."

  • Thanks for giving so much time and thought to my question. – brilliant Sep 6 '18 at 5:33
  • You’re very welcome – Tedinoz Sep 7 '18 at 21:23

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