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We use the article 'the' before the noun, which is made definite by the addition of the phrase or a clause. But:

We have a small house in a village in the Netherlands.

Why is there 'a small house' and 'a village'? The 'small house' is made definite by the phrase 'in a village' and the phrase 'in a village' is made definite by the phrase 'in the Netherlands'. Shouldn't it look like that:

We have the small house in the village in the Netherlands.

Maybe even now I have made this mistake because I'm not sure that in the first sentence I should say 'the noun' instead of 'a noun'.

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    The 'small house' is made definite by the phrase 'in a village' Only if there is only one small house in a village. But there is more than one, so this is just one of many small houses in many villages in the Netherlands.
    – stangdon
    Jul 7, 2021 at 20:25

2 Answers 2

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"The" is used when the reader knows exactly what it's talked about. So it's shared information between both the writer and the reader. However, in this sentence, "a" is used in "a small house" and in "a village" because it could be any house in any village located in the Netherlands, the reader doesn't acknowledge this. If we used "the" in this context, it'd mean that small house is the only one that is in the only village in the Netherlands, which is unlikely.

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We have the small house in the village in the Netherlands.

This would be used only if there was only one house in the village and only one village in the Netherlands (which is unlikely to the point of absurdity) or if some previous mention or context had been provided that makes it a particular house in a particular village. For example:

  • My aunt grew up in a four-room house in the village of Gisselles. We now have the small house in the village in the Netherlands.
  • The painter Jean Marc stayed in a brick house while he painted scenes in Gisselles. We now have the small house in the village in the Netherlands.

In both cases the context makes the house and the village specific. (the writing is also a bit stilted.) Using the definite article "the" makes the thing refereed to specific or particular. It says that there is one exact thing that the writer intends. This should mean that the is only one such item, or that context specifies a particular item.

If the writer is just starting to describe a house, a better choice would be:

We have a small house in a village in the Netherlands.

because the reader does not yet know what house in what village. Probably that is what the writer is just about to describe.

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