Recently I've encountered a problem with articles' usage in one specific case. (Articles aren't the strongest part of my English proficiency)

Which one should I use?

Prepare the project specification

Prepare a project specification

(Consider examples to be a task name)

I'm not sure which article to use because of the fact that the project I'm talking about is known (for me and for those who may read the task) but the specification is not written yet (and at the moment of creating task even unknown what should be in it).

Probably I have to use the last one? Or If the project is defined does it make the specification to be defined too (i.e. the specification of the project) or not (i.e. there may be occasions when a project have a few different specifications)?

Sorry for any grammar mistake I've made. It would be my pleasure to get your guidance or remarks to improve my English. Many thanks!)

  • See also English Language Learners Good Luck. Btw, you prepare for the exam to be held tomorrow. You know nothing about what will be in it. However, you are referring to something specific, not any exam. HTH. – Kris Mar 27 '18 at 9:22

The fact that a thing does not yet exist is no barrier to the use of the definite article. The only requirement is that it should be specific. So, in your case, the project specification referred to is that that applies to the project known to you and readers of the task, not just to any project.

In your example, and depending on the context, the indefinite article could also be used. It would be quite correct for someone to say "I have had a great idea for a project. I will now write a project specification for it." The use of the indefinite article could be justified on the grounds that there might be more than one way to specify a given idea in terms of a project specification, and, therefore the term 'project specification' would be general in the sense of referring to all the possible project specifications that might be written for that idea.

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If both you and your readers/listeners know which project is meant, then you need to use the, even if there is no specification given yet.

If you choose to use "a", then you mean something like "Prepare the specification of ANY/SOME project". It's somewhat strange because we usually need to know what exactly we should prepare.

Using "the", you refer to something which is clear from the context: "Prepare the specification of THIS/THAT project".

However, the sentence can be interpreted differently. "Prepare a project specification" might also mean "one of the specifications" in case there are a few possible. "The project specification" implies "THAT VERY (the only possible)" specification.

All in all, there is no single correct answer to your question as long as the whole situation isn't clear.

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  • I don't think you are quite right about the meaning of "a" in this context. It might mean the specification of a project, but it could also mean a specification of the project. – JeremyC Mar 27 '18 at 15:24
  • @JeremyC you are right! I'll edit my answer! Thank you! – Enguroo Mar 27 '18 at 16:10

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