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In the sentence:

I generally enjoy playing tricky passages because it gives me __ opportunity to sharpen my skills

Should it be "an opportunity" or "the opportunity"? If both are acceptable, what would a native English speaker (in North America) normally say?

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Not only are both "an opportunity" and "the opportunity" acceptable, both are commonly in use in North America. Subjectively, I feel as if there is no bias towards one phrase or the other, so I pulled up a Google Ngram for the two phrases, and it suggests that "an opportunity" was more common prior to 1980, while "the opportunity" is more common today. Not much more common, to be honest, but slightly.

Strictly speaking, there is a subtle difference between the phrases. "This gives me the opportunity" suggests that there is an opportunity that we are both aware of, while "this gives me an opportunity" suggests that there are more opportunities than this one. In practice however, the phrases are used interchangeably and without any real or true distinction.

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  • If someone meets a person and wants to meet that person again in the future but the other person is unsure, which one is better, "Please, give a change" or "Please, give me an opportunity"? Thank you!
    – tonix
    Nov 18, 2020 at 17:18
  • This is a different enough question that it needs its own question, not just a comment like this. In short, it's a more complicated question to answer and highly situationally dependent. Nov 28, 2020 at 11:57

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