I am having trouble with articles. Here is the context:

You are now changing your username. A/the new username must be different.

I think it would be just fine to just use your there, but I want to know which article is okay to be used there.

As it is not definite—not set yet—I think I should use a there, but at the same time as it is kind of The new username (you will have happened to use) must be different, I think I should use the there.

  • @sumelic That's better. I should edit. – hjjg200 Jan 13 '17 at 4:27

I would certainly use the here. As you say, your would also be appropriate.

I would not use a because the passage seems to be dealing with a specific situation, and in that specific situation there will only be one new name. Therefore, the name is implicitly already "set" at the time that you mention it. You aren't just referring to any new username — you are referring to this particular username that the user is about to enter.

(Sorry, I don't know if this explanation is helpful or not — as a native speaker, I'm not used to thinking about why I use articles certain ways, and I haven't studied the subject either.)

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  • 1
    I agree. It can be read as "The new username [that you choose] must be different". – Mick Jan 13 '17 at 4:38
  • +1 Agreed. But a would not be ungrammatical either. It would just be something different, e.g. the beginning of a series of generally applicable rules. Consider: "You are about to have a baby. A baby requires constant care. . . ." – Catomic Jan 13 '17 at 9:21

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