What is the difference between the two sentences below? (Or is it the case that one is ungrammatical anyway?)

The Abduction of Elvis is a book I have been authoring for the last ten years or so.


The Abduction of Elvis is the book I have been authoring for the last ten years or so.

Does any of them suggest there are other books I have been working on also?

  • 1
    'The' and 'a' are used the same way as usual. If the book has already been mentioned you say "the book I have been writing"; if not, "a book I have been writing". It is like "There is a dog" / "There is the dog". Nov 30 '20 at 3:01

The second one, using "the", indicates there is no other book - either you have mentioned the book already and thus the sentence is about that specific book, or there is no other book with all of the stated qualities. Additionally, it suggests that you are not authoring any other books - but that is not made certain. In spoken English particularly, you might use this construction even though there are other books that just don't fit the description in terms of timing (if spoken, by stressing the qualifying phrase 'for the last ten years or so...' in a particular way).

The first one, using "a", puts a little distance between you and the book, of some sort. You might simply be being humble about being an author, or indicating it isn't a very important project to you, or you might be indicating that you are writing more than one book and this is just one of them.

Also, if your audience does not know you are writing a book yet it can sound strange to use "the". "I've been writing a book for the last ten years or so" is one natural way to introduce the idea, after which you would stick with "the".

  • Justin, exactly my thoughts. Thanks.
    – blackened
    Nov 30 '20 at 9:15
  • I agree that "I've been writing a book for the last ten years or so" sound more “natural.” Is it the same when the name of the book is mentioned? "XYZ is a book I've been writing for the last ten years or so." ?
    – blackened
    Nov 30 '20 at 11:20
  • To answer completely would involve many subtle details. It is a little unusual to start with the title. That sentence might be found as the first sentence of an article about the book, though, for example. In speaking, I recommend clarifying with "XYZ is the title of a book" or "XYZ is the name of a book..." (doesn't hurt in text, either) Generally both "a" and "the" are fine in most related cases, but subtly different from each other. Primarily, start with "I've been..." and qualify with "called XYZ" or "with the title XYZ" after "book" or "so" Nov 30 '20 at 14:42

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