He told me that he once met an alien from space. This alien didn’t need oxygen to live; it didn’t have a nose. That’s the hard story to believe. I’m not sure he was telling me truth. Maybe he isn’t so honest, after all.

The above paragraph is copied from one of the online grammar test excerices. Iam making some mistakes in the articles usage. e.g.

I used the article before hard story but in result it is 'a'. I think hard story is describe in the first two sentences and it is clearly understandable which story it is talking about.


  • a hard story means that it could be any. If you say the hard story it means that you know which story you're telling about.
    – Schwale
    Jan 31, 2016 at 12:12

2 Answers 2


He told me that he once met an alien from space. This alien didn’t need oxygen to live; it didn’t have a nose.

This is an example of a story, so an indefinite article should be used (because it's one hard story among the set of infinite unbelievable/hard-to-believe stories you can tell). If you continue to talk about this story, then you should use the definite article the. For example, if the passage continues as:

Maybe he isn’t so honest, after all. Several days later he told me the story he was talking about was one of his recent dreams,

then you have already mentioned the story and you can be sure that everyone who reads the passage knows which story you are talking about.

  • Then how would you explain "iam not sure he is telling me the truth". There are many truths and it is one of the truth. I understand your answer but how you will apply it to the last sentence Jan 31, 2016 at 11:35
  • 1
    @RaheelBari In my point of view there's only one (conventionally accepted) truth: either he's lying or he is not.
    – mrnld
    Jan 31, 2016 at 12:13
  • 1
    @RaheelBari: in the case of the "truth," you are choosing between two options - what's true and what isn't. Therefore there is only ONE truth, hence the definite article.
    – CocoPop
    Jan 31, 2016 at 15:05
  • But you could immediately use the story as the third sentence of the passage as I found the story unbelievable and That I didn't believe the story is no surprise.. So this question is more about the use of that's (a/the) story itself rather than the definite or indefinite article in general.
    – GoDucks
    Jan 31, 2016 at 16:04

'That’s the hard story to believe.' is wrong. We never say that. We would say 'That's a hard story to believe.' (When reading or hearing stories [plural] we select that one as not credible). If we want to use the phrase "The story" we would say: 'The story is hard to believe.' If we use 'that' we would say 'That story is hard to believe.'

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