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After many mistakes I made, I think I will never get confused with "a" and " the". But sometimes, sentences written by native-speaker really baffle me.

Here is the sentence taken from theguardian.com link.

Guardiola’s infringement came after Raheem Sterling’s injury-time goal gave City a 2-1 victory at the Etihad on Wednesday.

The author writes " a 2-1 victory". Why is that? Why not " the 2-1 victory"? City beat Southampton 3 days ago so "2-1 victory" is already specific, right?

  • 2-1 is a premodifier here. You'd say '... gave City a well deserved victory' / '... gave City an unconvincing victory' / '... gave City a perhaps fortunate victory' / '... gave City a 2-1 victory', but admittedly '... gave City victory', which is a set expression with essentially a non-count usage. The premodifier does not remove the need for the indefinite article. Compare 'I saw a small dog / a grey horse / a huge tree / an old car ...'. – Edwin Ashworth Dec 2 '17 at 9:16
  • Hello Ashworth, Maybe I still dont get your explanation, I think that victory is specific and definite because it happened in the past therefore is well-known by everybody cares about English football. Perhaps the author writes " a victory" because he think maybe non-fan football would read his article too ? – anhvu1210 Dec 2 '17 at 9:49
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    1970 was in the past, but we still would say "1970 was a good year". Think of it as a variant of "Looking back over recent years, it's clear that 1970 was a good one". – Edwin Ashworth Dec 2 '17 at 12:31
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    If you are unconvinced by Edwin Ashworth's comments, which I think are good explanations, one could also think of it as this 2-1 victory being a particular 2-1 victory, in the "set" of all 2-1 victories, which is a subset of all victories including 3-2 victories, 7-0 victories, and what not. It's similar to why you would say "...gave City a victory at" instead of "...gave City the victory at" if you weren't going to use the modifier. – Scripter1000 Dec 3 '17 at 16:47
  • But I suppose, if you assume that everyone reading your magazine/article follows football intently and knows the exact result of the game, you could use "the". Otherwise, "a" sounds much better to my ears. – Scripter1000 Dec 3 '17 at 16:48

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