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It's been always confusing for me to use articles. I don't want to go into details, but only with general use of articles. So, general rule, as far as I know is that we use "a/an" when we mention something for the first time. When we mention it again, we should use "the".

In this example dialogue:

A: Is there a lot of space in your flat?
B: Yes, on a wall in the living room.

Why there is "in the living room" and not "in a living room"? He mentions the living room for the first time, so why isn't used "a living room"?

Second general rule is that we use "the" when we talk about something specific. So:

Second example:

Well, there isn't another shop around here, but there is a nice shop with paintings near my place.

Why in this example there is use "a nice shop" instead of "the nice shop"? He mentioned "shop" twice, and he even said it more specific for the second time. According to the rule, when we say something more specific, we should use "the".

Another example:

A: Hey Fred, are there any nice paintings in this furniture shop?
B: Well, there are two. There is a modern painting over there and an old painting of a horse over there.

Person B says about specific paintings, why does he use "a modern painting" and "an old painting of a horse", he even points where are they using "over there". Shouldn't he use "the"?

  • B is not talking about any living room, but the one in his flat. – Kate Bunting Feb 18 at 14:14
  • Yes, but he also is not talking about any wall, but the one in his living room. So, why there is "a" wall not "the" wall? – Chubby Feb 18 at 14:37
  • The room has four walls. Evidently there is space on only one of them. – Kate Bunting Feb 18 at 15:11
  • Ok. What about second example with the shops and third example with the paintings? – Chubby Feb 18 at 16:19
  • The first example doesn't make much sense. When we think of space in a flat or any home, people don't normally think how large a wall is but how many rooms a home has or how large the rooms are. What is the context of the dialogue? What was said immediately before and after? – Mari-Lou A Feb 18 at 17:11
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A: Is there a lot of space in your flat?
B: Yes, on a wall in the living room.

The OP asks: Why there is "in the living room" and not "in a living room"? He mentions the living room for the first time, so why isn't used "a living room"?

It is common to use the definite article when we speak about the rooms in our homes. For example, a couple might tell the owners of a paint shop, “We need to decorate the children's bedroom, the master bedroom, and the kitchen, too.”

Well, there isn't another shop around here,

the listener understands what "here" refers to

but there is a nice shop with paintings near my place

We can infer that the listener is either unfamiliar with the location or with the shop, so "a (nice) shop" means one of many shops that are near the speaker's home. If the speaker had said

but there is the nice shop with paintings near my place

it would suggest that the listener already knows about this shop, maybe he or she has already visited the area where the speaker lives and seen the aforementioned shop.

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