When talking about form of transport, we could say "take a bus", "get the subway".

In this context, should I use "get the boat" or "get a boat"?

Google Ngram gives this plot

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1 Answer 1


You are confused on the role of "a" or "the", which have their usual meaning.

In one city there is only one subway system, so when speaking about underground trains, it is understood which system you are talking about. Since it is determined by context you say "the subway"

On the other hand, there are many buses so you don't know which bus you will take. It is not determined; you say "a bus". This is the normal use of "a" and "the".

It is possible that you do know which bus, or you want to say "bus" to mean "the network of buses in my city. In which case the bus is determined and you can say "I'll take the bus".

So the answer about boats has to be "Use the right word depending on what you want to say" If you mean a particular boat, or you mean the system of boats serving a particular route then say "the boat" if not then say "a boat". In many cases both can be correct. Also remember that the word "ferry" is often better for boats that you can "take".

I'd normally fly to France, but tomorrow I'm going to take [a/the] ferry. (both correct with different meaning)

  • I guess I got it. The same rule is applicable to doing a sport or playing a musical instrument, right?
    – WXJ96163
    Commented Feb 23, 2020 at 9:29
  • Yes, but it is one of the hardest parts of English, because it is so common.
    – James K
    Commented Feb 23, 2020 at 9:33

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