1. A red car stopped by a Highway Patrol Officer was speeding.

  2. A joke told at the beginning of his speech made everyone laugh.

'stopped by a Highway patrol officer' and 'told at the beginning of his speech' are modifying clause. They are giving extra information and telling us about a particular joke and a specific red car. So shouldn't we use 'The' in place of 'A'?

Like in the examples The people in my area head for beach in the summer.

The violin that you gave me is very old.

1 Answer 1


No. We use "a" when we're introducing a noun that could be one of many, regardless of whether it's a bare noun or further specified.

There are many red cars stopped by Highway Patrol officers, and whoever's listening to this sentence doesn't know of this one. The guy giving the speech may have told more than one joke at the beginning, or it could be referring to one joke among many, which happened to be told at the beginning of the speech.

But "the people in my area" refers to all those people, not just some of them, so it's a completely defined noun. Similarly, you only gave me one violin, so that violin is completely defined, and is not one among many.

  • 'The people in my area' the one listening might not know them but still we use 'The'. we can't use 'A' as it's plural noun, but it doesn't follow the rule of being definite.
    – RADS
    Commented Sep 16, 2021 at 7:58
  • 1
    It means "all of the people in my area". It is not "one/some among many", so it does follow the rule. By contrast, if it said, "People in my area head for the beach", that would mean some of the people, which is indefinite.
    – gotube
    Commented Sep 16, 2021 at 16:21

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