Why do we use 'the' article in such a situation if we're talking about a bell in a school in a general way ... I've thought like it's the bell we don't even know at that time. Could you clarify this aspect for me, please?

Then the bell rings, and they give you a carton of milk and a piece of paper that says you can go take a dump or something

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    It's not just a generic bell that someone rings, it's the specific bell associated with the school. I think there are similar questions but searching "the" isn't easy...
    – Stuart F
    Aug 22, 2022 at 11:49
  • We do know it, because in a school a bell is commonly used to mark the end of lessons etc. Aug 22, 2022 at 12:00
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    The does not have a meaning, and it is not used only for specific definite things, as you have apparently been taught. The is part of the grammar, not the lexicon, and it has as many uses and idioms in English as a gear has uses in a machine. Aug 22, 2022 at 16:07

1 Answer 1


It would be correct to write "Then a bell rings . . .". In that case, the reader would presumably have no idea about which bell was meant.

However, a school will often have a bell that rings to indicate the start and end of classes. Because the author refers to that specific bell, he or she uses the definite article.

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