Should I use a definite or indefinite article in definitions? My understanding is that you can use both, but using the definite article fits more because it describes an object in general, all objects of the kind at once

The/a airbag is a safety device fitted inside a road vehicle protecting passengers during collisions.

1 Answer 1


You can probably get away with "the", but I recommend "a" (or "an" in this case).

Using "the" makes me ask "which airbag", and you would say it can define any airbag, and this is the generic "the". Generic "the" exists, but should usually be avoided. It is better to use an indeterminate noun or a plural.

So the better options are:

An airbag is a device which....

Airbags are devices which ...

Airbag: A device which....

When defining non-count nouns, use no article:

Love is an emotion that a person feels when...

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