(1) a seat with integral headrest

The absence of "the" before "integral headrest" seems incorrect to me, although naturally I understand it's correct because it's written in a dictionary

Could you explain to me please why the absence of "the" is possible?

P.S.: if you necessarily need a whole sentence rather than the collocation, it may be, for example, "There is a seat with integral headrest."

my variant:
(2) a seat with an integral headrest

I think (2) is incorrect because "an" means "one of" but since one seat can have only one headrest, "an" doesn't make sense here at all.

Is my explanation of (2) correct? If not, then why not?

my variant:
(3) a seat with the integral headrest

I think only (3) is correct because when we say "a seat", a listener immediately envisions some seat in his mind and this seat becomes quite specific for him. Next, when we want to mention some part of this seat, we have to say only "the headrest" because "the" tell us that it's not a headrest of some other seat but it's that headrest the seat of which is already in the mind of our listener.

Is my explanation of (3) correct? If not, then why not?

3 Answers 3


(2) is correct.

As you have pointed out, "an" means "one of many". The seat has one integral headrest among many integral headrests in the world. There isn't only one integral headrest in the world, nor is there a specific integral headrest previously specified in that context, so we cannot use "the".


If you are at the car dealer, the dealer would point to an alternative car (one you had not been looking at) and say: Why aren't you interested in the car with the integral headrest?

And you might respond: But the seat with the integral headrest is such an ugly color.

As a product, it's: a seat with integral headrest

An apartment with kitchen and bath is the norm.

An electric guitar with foot pedal and case is more expensive.


Firstly, the example from the dictionary is kind of "headlinese" - it's not a full sentence, and is not exactly how we might say something in speaking or in formal writing. Headlinese tends to omit articles.

Your logic about articles is kind of backwards, unfortunately. "A seat with an integral headrest" is the only natural way to say it.

Yes "an X" means "one of many possible X", but that is exactly why an is appropriate here. It only has one headrest at a time, but it could have an integral headrest, a purple headrest, a comfortable headrest, etc. Many of these things exist in the world, and this particular seat happens to have one of them.

"A seat with the integral headrest" doesn't make sense because the implies one specific one that we have already specified. But we don't know anything about the headrest, because this is the first time it's been mentioned. If we were saying "The headrest of the seat is integral", then the would be correct because we are clearly talking about one particular one, which is the one belonging to this seat.

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