At 1:19 into this BBC news, the BBC reporter says:

But what pushed her from office was ___ constitutional court finding her guilty of crime in a country which has only been a democracy for 30 years.

Did he say "a" or "the" in the blank?

It sounds like "a" to my ears. But I think it may well be "the", because at the beginning of the video, the same court has been mentioned.

Now, my question is whether "a" is ever possible or even natural in this context?

And in general, can choosing "a something" over "the something" be natural even when that "something" is previously mentioned?


FYI, there is only one constitutional court in South Korea.

  • He says "a". Both "a" and "the" are possible, depending on whether the country has one or more than one constitutional court. This question is better asked and answered on our sister site for people learning English as a foreign language, English Language Learners. I've voted to move it there. – Dan Bron Mar 10 '17 at 21:33
  • @DanBron Thanks. But the country, South Korea, only has one constitutional court. And is "a" still possible? – listennever Mar 10 '17 at 21:37
  • He said "a", so clearly it is possible. It may be the he article attached to he finding ("a finding") rather than the court ("a court"). – Dan Bron Mar 10 '17 at 21:41
  • @DanBron The "finding" here is not a noun, so it can't take an article. It's a non-finite verb. – listennever Mar 10 '17 at 21:44
  • 'FYI, there is only one constitutional court in South Korea.' But one can speak of the one sitting in Jan 2007, the one sitting in March 2010.... 'Court' is polysemous. – Edwin Ashworth Mar 10 '17 at 21:46

Yes, a is perfectly valid, and in fact more valid than the.

It doesn't matter how many such courts there are. The indefinite article is to show that it was a constitutional court as opposed to a criminal court which did for the president: it's the type of court which is important here.

Thus it's the a=any rule for articles which is important here.


Yes 'a' is certainly possible. There may be many constitutional courts in a land, but if you want to refer to just one of them, 'a' would be perfectly appropriate.

As demonstrated here for example:

A constitutional court is a high court that deals primarily with constitutional law. Its main authority is to rule on whether laws that are challenged are in fact unconstitutional, i.e., whether they conflict with constitutionally established rights and freedoms.

When you refer to 'the' constitutional court, you place somewhat more of an emphasis on the constitutional aspect of the system at work in the court, and not on any one particular court that made a ruling.

  • Thanks. But the country, South Korea, only has one constitutional court. And is "a" still possible? – listennever Mar 10 '17 at 21:39
  • 2
    Yes, the reporter doesn't necessarily need to be limiting their scope to constitutional courts in the land about which they are reporting. For example if you were writing about constitutional courts, you might refer to 'a' constitutional court in a country that only has one constitutional court, if you were linking the usage in some way to ideas about the constitutional system at large or constitutional courts elsewhere in the world. – Gary Mar 10 '17 at 21:41

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