I have a peculiar situation, I am not sure whether to use "a" or "the" in my book. This takes place in a footnote of the title of the work that I mention.

Mario wrote the work "Principia de mathematica"[1] in 1920.

[1] The titles of the work contain "principiae", "principea" and "prinkepia"; a/the title with "prinkepia", for example, is provided in the work "Buhaha" by John Firaldo in p.23.

That is - there are many variations of this work's title. Then I provide an example of one of these titles.

So should I write "a title" or "the title"?

Any help is appreciated.


The is used to refer to specific or particular nouns; a/an is used to modify non-specific or non-particular nouns.

If you were referencing a specific title, you would want to use the.

  • So... are you saying I should use "a"? Because I never mention that "title" before, on the other hand I say that it has a particular word in it - so that is kind of like "specifying" it. – Andriy Drozdyuk Apr 19 '11 at 14:46
  • I would say that you should use "the," since you're referring to a specific word in a specific use. – Martha F. Apr 19 '11 at 14:49
  • 1
    @drozzy No, I am suggesting you use the, as it is referring to "prinkepia" in your example: The title with "prinkepia"... An example of using a would be "A title was selected at random." in which you are referencing no specific title. – HaL Apr 19 '11 at 16:49
  • @drozzy Another example would be if you were talking about four books that contained "prinkepia" in the title and two books that contained "principiae". You could then select "a title with 'prinkepia'" because that would refer to any of the four books. – Dave DuPlantis Apr 19 '11 at 20:04

If it is the only title with prinkepia in it, use the, otherwise use a.


It might be easier to say:

The work is known by titles that use "principiae", "principea" and "prinkepia"; for example, "prinkepia" is used in the work "Buhaha" by John Firaldo in p.23.

  • I would say that it is the only title with that word in it, for that particular work. – Andriy Drozdyuk Apr 19 '11 at 14:52
  • So there are other titles, in other works, that use that word? – Matt E. Эллен Apr 19 '11 at 14:56
  • Maybe, but I am only concerned with the titles of "this" work - the first part of footnote indicates this, I hope. – Andriy Drozdyuk Apr 19 '11 at 14:57
  • In that case this is the only title with that word in it. – Matt E. Эллен Apr 19 '11 at 14:59
  • @Drozzy: Matt is right. Of all the titles of this work, the is the title that contains "prinkepia"; there is only one title of this work that contains it. (An ugly bastardisation, by the way.) – Cerberus Apr 19 '11 at 17:59

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