For Netflix, securing the Obama programming is a part of the company’s broader search for original content, as the streaming service competes for viewers with HBO, Apple, Amazon and the traditional broadcast networks. Netflix has said it could spend as much as $8 billion on content this year. It has been paying top dollar for original programs like its hit Stranger Things and the documentary Icarus, which won the Oscar this year for best documentary feature. It would also be another coup for a company that began by distributing DVDs and is now doing deals with some of the most powerful names in entertainment. Obama in Talks to Provide Shows for Netflix

Hi, I read this article, and I would like to know why the writer uses "a" company instead of "the" company. I think since the writer already mentioned Netflix, it seems like "the" company is okay.

(+) I know this rule:

We often use a when we mention something for the first time, and then change to the when it is clear which thing we are talking about. We also use the when it is obvious which thing we are talking about or when there is only one of something. A, an, and the: how to use articles in English

  • The article makes a whole lot of difference to the meaning. I'd think the Q is too broad. Especially without knowing the English language background of the OP.
    – Kris
    Mar 19, 2018 at 6:28
  • 1
    That's not enough. The sentence implies "It would also be another coup for (Netflix, which, as a matter of fact, is) a company that began by distributing DVDs ... " -- to remind the reader that Netflix was once a small company and now has grown so bit as to securing Obama programming.
    – Kris
    Mar 19, 2018 at 6:42
  • @Kris Thank you so much. And should I add more information to my question? Mar 19, 2018 at 8:42
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    @Kris's answer is correct; the fact that 'a' would be used in the longer version is the controlling factor here. Mar 19, 2018 at 8:44

2 Answers 2


An already specified noun can be further defined by categorizing it as a subset of a larger class, group, or type. The determiner for the noun denoting the larger set, with or without modifiers, will be indefinite:

The x is a y.

The lever is a tool.
The lever is a tool for getting more work done with less physical force.
The lever is a type of tool.

The lever is a simple machine.
The lever is a simple machine made with a bar free to move about a fixed point called a fulcrum.
The lever is a member of a class of devices known since the Renaissance as simple machines.

This construction is also used with proper nouns without a determiner:

X is a y.

Google is a giant corporation that amassed most of its wealth by gathering data on trends and tendancies.

Germany is a central European country that occupies a land mass roughly the size of Montana and borders the North Sea and the Baltic Sea to the north.

A proper noun can even be used to designate a class:

The personal development of George Washington is the focus as Producer David Sutherland brings to life a uniquely human Washington who transformed himself from social climber into a patriot willing to give up everything for a higher cause.

Of all possible depictions of George Washington, the producer chose a particular one.


Excellent catch. Yes, the 'ru;e' would lead you to believe that 'the' is what you're supposed to use it would certainly be grammatical to use it here, but the semantics are slightly different, and it is much more likely to use 'a'.

The reason that 'a' is used here is that it is more like 'any'. The writer is intentionally saying that 'any' company with a background as modest as Netflix's would enjoy the honor of am Oscar (the 'coup', the pride of winning). And 'a' is a simpler form of 'any' (meaning one out of many).

So in this (very common instance) the intention is to make things broader by not saying something specifically about Netflix (using 'the') but to say it's a more general fact (thus stronger) to say it about many companies that could be similar to Netflix.

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