English Language & Usage Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for linguists, etymologists, and serious English language enthusiasts. It's 100% free, no registration required.

Sign up
Here's how it works:
  1. Anybody can ask a question
  2. Anybody can answer
  3. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top

Possible Duplicate:
Are there any simple rules for article usage (“a” vs “the” vs none)

Which is correct?

  1. Everyone knows what a proton is.
  2. Everyone knows what the proton is.
  3. Everyone knows what proton is.
share|improve this question

marked as duplicate by jwpat7, Mahnax, Matt E. Эллен, John Lawler, Jasper Loy Jun 17 '12 at 19:27

This question has been asked before and already has an answer. If those answers do not fully address your question, please ask a new question.

Everyone knows what a proton is.

This is the most-used construct.

Everyone knows what the proton is.

This structure is a bit old-fashioned for general use, but is commonplace in scientific contexts.

Everyone knows what proton is.

This is ungrammatical. A correct way to say it is everyone knows what protons are.

share|improve this answer

Option 2 seems to emphasize "proton" as an ontological value. Option 3 sounds more abstract than 1, in the sense that "proton" could be a quality and not a noun, as in the case of "a proton". I'd say that being right or wrong depends on what you are writing. Withouth the specific context, any of them could be right.

share|improve this answer

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.