During my leaning training, I came across this question when reading this sentence in my English workbook.

a) What an interesting program this is!!

I wonder why "a" is used?? Why the answer book has only this sentence? Why If I use "the" instead of "a" (like in the sentence below), that is wrong?

b) What the interesting program this is!!

I couldn't find any references in my study-aid book. But I think I can use "the" in this sentence because using "a" implies that I don't know the program. So I think there is a possibility to use "the".

Please tell me is my thought wrong or not?

  • The answers that everyone has given are correct and good. I think a simple way to think of it is this: imagine that you saw a red dog. Would you say, "Look! The red dog!"? No, you would just say "a red dog", because it is just an example of the general class of red dogs, not the only red dog in the world or the specific red dog that you were referring to earlier. So you would say "What a red dog it is". Likewise, it's an interesting program, not the interesting program.
    – stangdon
    Commented Apr 13, 2016 at 13:06

3 Answers 3


If we rewrite the above sentence in a lets say dull way the sentence is as follows:

This is an interesting program.(Not the interesting program)

a/an + adjective + countable nouns

Nouns are used with indefinite article, a/an, when they are modified by descriptive attributes which bring out a special aspect of a quality, state, etc. expressed by the noun.

Now the grammar rule you need to know about exclamatory sentence states that if the noun in your sentence is plural, the correct choice is "what," not "how." "What" is acceptable with singular nouns as well.

As above so below:

What an interesting program this is!

Notice that exclamatory sentences are used to add excitement to your story or prose and to show a vast range of emotions: love, anger, happiness, confusion, elation or any other typed of exuberant emotion.They are reserved for powerful feelings so you won’t find them used to express a matter-of –fact emotion or serenity, or a sense of calm. Instead they deliver a jolt of feeling, which is why they’re so common in everyday speech.

In other words, an exclamatory sentence is used to express a sudden emotion. It could be fear, anger, anxiety, admiration, excitement etc. So we are not talking about sentences that make a casual statement, ask a question, or give a command.

Here are some tips for constructing exclamatory sentences.

  • Use what + a/an before a singular noun.

What a surprise!

What an interesting program!

Before an abstract noun or a plural noun, use "what" without "a."

What awful weather!

Use "how" before "a" modifying adjective, an adverb or a verb.

Examples are given below

What a nice evening!

What a pleasant surprise!

What treachery!

What awful weather!

How noble of him to do that!

How clever of you!

Note that it is possible to rewrite many of these sentences using a structure with it.

It was very noble of him to do that.

It was very clever of him.

How kind of him to help the poor man!

It was kind of him to help the poor man!

How thoughtless of him not to have locked the car!

It was thoughtless of him not to have locked the car.

Another way that can be used to pull the reader into your words is by inserting exclamatory words or interjections in a sentence:

Wow, that's an interesting program!

Brilliant, you solved the puzzle!


The meaning of your example sentence is:
In all the programs that are available, this one is very interesting.

Try to reconstruct the sentence "the other way round", without using exclamation.
You would say: "This is a very interesting program".
You would not say: " This is the very interesting program".

"A" is used to show that a person or a thing is one of a group.


The answer to this question depends on whether the program has been introduced into the conversation before. A is typically used to introduce a new thing into the conversation. The is typically used to refer to an old thing which was previously introduced.

So, if I were mentioning the program for the first time, I would use "What an interesting program this is." However, if I were replying to some other comment about the program (say, "Hey, look at this program!") I would reply "What the interesting program it is." (Note the use of 'it' instead of 'this', which happened for the same reason. 'This' is typically used to direct attention to the new object while 'it' refers to the old one.)

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