Sometimes I write technical texts and wonder which article I should use before adjectives like unique, so-called and given, as English is a foreign language for me. For example, why it is

there is a unique number such that...


necessary tools include the so-called Bott's formula...

Could you recommend me an online resourse to resolve such ambiguities: a table of adjectives with necessary articles or something like that?

  • 2
    You shouldn't need a table to be honest, the rule for articles is fairly simple: if you're referring to a specific occurrence or instance of a thing, use "the". If you're referring to it generally, use "a". In your examples, the reason "a" is used is that the unique number isn't specified; it could be anything. However, "Bott's formula" is a specific thing. It will only be whatever Bott's formula is, no matter what. So you'd use "the". – John Clifford Mar 7 '16 at 10:06
  • In other words, you don't need to worry about the adjective, worry about whether the noun is specific or non-specific and you can't go wrong. – John Clifford Mar 7 '16 at 10:07
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    @JohnClifford Are you kidding? The usage of English articles is idiomatic, and the full rules are quite complicated and baffling, especially to people whose first language has no articles. Try explaining the rules that govern the differences between I like the dog, I like a dog, and I like dog. Then try it for the plural. – deadrat Mar 7 '16 at 12:14
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    In the first you mean a specific dog, in the second you mean no particular dog, and the third means you have strange dietary tastes. :P – John Clifford Mar 7 '16 at 12:26
  • Actually, 'a dog' means a particular dog, but one that is known to the speaker but not yet to the listener. Once mentioned, it becomes 'the dog' to both parties. – AmI Mar 8 '16 at 0:18

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