In a CNN report, there's this sentence:

This was all taking place near a bridge that President Obama had just crossed after 9/11 ceremonies at the Pentagon.

Since President Obama had crossed a specific bridge, why it's "a bridge" and not "the bridge"?

1 Answer 1


Both could work, but "the bridge" would imply that the reader would have some familiarity with the bridge or that the bridge is important in some way. "A bridge" suggests that the bridge itself isn't worthy of recognition.

  • How about this reason? CNN wasn't sure if President Obama had crossed a single bridge or two or more bridges just after 9/11 ceremonies at the Pentagon.
    – listeneva
    Feb 21, 2020 at 4:24
  • Yep, that would also work as a reason. If there definitely were multiple bridges you could use either "a" or "one of the" (not just "the"). In this situation, we don't know for sure, so "the" wouldn't work as it implies only one. That said, as a native speaker, I didn't consider the one/many argument at first in this example, and I feel like other native speakers would consider the recognition/importance aspect first.
    – Leo Adberg
    Feb 21, 2020 at 6:54
  • Thanks. Thing is, the recognition/importance aspect is very hard to understand, and seems like somewhat subjective. Is there any objective way to evaluate the recognition/importance aspect?
    – listeneva
    Feb 21, 2020 at 7:35
  • It can be subjective, but this sentence has some clear indicators for using "a": the audience is unlikely to have heard about this bridge before, the bridge itself is not important relative to the rest of the story, and the audience probably won't remember the bridge afterwards. To give a new comparison, you would say "I took the car to work" if you were talking to a person familiar with the specific car (e.g. a spouse), but "I took a car to work" if you were talking to a person who doesn't care about your car (e.g. a coworker).
    – Leo Adberg
    Feb 21, 2020 at 7:44

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