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Violence flared up again today in the troubled southern region when several bombs went off in the centre of the capital. Support for the rebels is growing, and it's expected that the rebels will succeed in bringing down a government that is increasingly unpopular. There are fears that a full-scale civil war may break out.

Is it natural to use the indefinite article in this passage? If so, what would be the rule to back it up?

We've got a clear picture of the region and the capital where the unrest is taking place. We know who the rebels are, and what they stand for (since support for them is picking up). Why a government then?

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This is a very common construction. "a" is used because the writer is considering this government as one of many possible governments, and saying this one is unpopular. It implies a generalization, that unpopular governments are likely to be brought down by unrest or rebellion. The author could have written this with a definite article and any of several ways. For example:

  • The government is increasingly unpopular, and support for the rebels is growing. It is expected that the rebels will succeed in bringing down the government.

  • Support for the rebels is growing. It is expected that the rebels will succeed in bringing down the government, which is increasingly unpopular.

However, neither of those include the implied generalization. Beyond that it is a matter of style.

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