Can I get another explanation?

I was watching a video on English prepositions, I came across this sentence. Unfortunately, the video raised more questions than answers on the articles.

There is a picture above the crib.

She is putting a blanket over the baby.

I wonder why it’s not 'there is a picture above A crib', and ‘she is putting a blanket over A baby'.

The picture and the cot in the first sentence and the blanket and the baby in the second sentence are equally introduced for the first time, so they all must be preceded by the indefinite article.

However, the author used the indefinite article for the first nouns and the definite articles for the second two nouns in the above two sentences. Please help me understand, why it is so?

picture of the scene described in the video

  • 1
    1 FORGET about that rule. Read any magazine article and look at the first mentions. The number of first mentions used in definite noun phrases outnumber the number of first mentions in indefinite noun phrases by a ratio of six to one. Go ahead; checkout 2 or 3 or 5 or 10 websites while I wait.... Commented Sep 19, 2018 at 8:44
  • 2 READ this answer on Engish Language & Usage. Commented Sep 19, 2018 at 8:44
  • What rule? Googling what you suggest does not provide explanations for these differences: a boy on a hill, the boy on a hill, the boy on the hill, a boy on the hill. All are valid. All mean different things.
    – Lambie
    Commented Sep 19, 2018 at 16:29
  • Can I get few more answers? Commented Sep 27, 2018 at 17:49
  • Is this the first time we have seen the baby in this video? The simplest explanation is that we have already seen and read about the baby and the crib in the video. I have another explanation, but I'd like to know this first.
    – Sydney
    Commented Jan 16, 2019 at 7:05

2 Answers 2


Two Scenarios:


Teacher: Johnny, please tell the class what you see in the picture.

Johnny: The picture shows a lady with a baby and a picture over a crib (in the context.) The baby is probably her baby. The baby seems cold because she is covering him with a blanket.

Comment: All those are random except for the picture and, later,the baby. The picture is specific and the baby becomes specific at the second mention of it in the same context.


Instructions from a teacher: Please write a description of the picture.

The drawing shows a lady with a baby in a cot and a picture on the wall. The lady is putting a blanket [random] over the baby [now the baby is specific] in the cot.

Comment: at first everything is basically random. But both the baby and cot become specific.

Also, in the existing sentence: "There's a picture above the crib." The picture is random at first mention, whereas the crib is intended to be specific; it is not random. "The crib" is associated with "the baby".

So,to answer your question: there is more than one possible scenario. And there are other ones here as well, but these two above should be enough to show two ways to describe a scene.

  • I challenge the naysayers to provide a better explanation and more scenarios. Can they?
    – Lambie
    Commented Sep 19, 2018 at 16:25

When this grammar point comes up in class, I say "When I say 'the', I know that you know, or I think that you know, which one I'm talking about. This happens for three reasons: 1) I've told you before, 2) I'm telling you now, or 3) I'm talking about the only one or the obvious one, here, now."

"I've told you before" would happen if this picture was part of a series. In a previous picture, or earlier in the video, we have seen the mother, the baby and the cot/crib and read the words "Here is a mother with a baby. She is putting the baby into a cot/crib".

"I am telling you now" would happen if I said "The mother in this picture is putting the baby in this picture into the cot/crib in the picture", which is obviously awkward.

That leaves "the only one, the obvious one". There is only one mother, one baby and one cot/crib in this picture. I don't have to tell you that - you can see them. I am talking about "the only mother", "the only baby" and "the only cot/crib". But there is also only one picture on the wall, and she is putting only one blanket over the baby, so why don't we say "There's the picture over the cot/crib" and "She is putting the blanket over the baby". Firstly, a baby and a cot/crib are integral to a baby's bedroom, while a picture (more) and a blanket (less) aren't. Secondly, the pattern "There's ..." is more often used to introduce "a [something]" rather than "the [something]". "She is putting the blanket over the baby" is much more possible, because of the sentence pattern.

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