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"The" and "A" have been genuinely giving me a lot of challenges ever since I could remember.

I am to this day struggling to figure out when to use which.

I am just now putting a sentence together and pretty much guessing.

"I am personality speaking with a number of people who are close to owners" or "I am personality speaking with the number of people who are close to owners"

Thanks for your help.

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From dailywritingtips.com:

The: you’re talking about a definite item, which is why "the" is called a definite article. Of course it only makes sense if both you and your listeners know which item you mean. If I commanded you, “Give me the money,” you would rightfully ask, “What money? I don’t owe you any money.”

The house on that corner once belonged to Charles Dickens.
The weather is very pleasant today.

You can use "the" the second time you refer to something, even if you used "a" the first time. We know what you’re referring to, because you just told us. You can do this, but I wouldn’t recommend it. Read these examples – repeating the noun might sound monotonous.

We visited a palace on our vacation. The palace was built in 1546.
We also went to a concert. The concert was too loud for me.

A: you use this when you’re not necessarily referring to a specific thing, such as a nail, any nail. It’s called an indefinite article, because you’re not being definite or particular. There are many nails in this big world.

She owns a cat.
I work on a golf course.

In your case

What you use depends on the contextual knowledge of whomever you are speaking to. If you are talking to someone who would know what number of people you were referring to, you could use "the". However, if this is the first time you are bringing up this group of people, and you don't have any other way of identifying them specifically from a (if relevant) different number of people who may be close to the owners, then you would use "a".

EDIT: Just want to say that usually you'd say "a number of people", not "the number of people". Though you could grammatically make that work, and it would make sense if you really meant it, it would sound odd and it doesn't mean what you most likely want it to mean.

  • Hi Nic, thank you very much for the time you've spent on this. Just one final bit, as my audience also does not know "the owners", should I say "owners" or "the owners"? – arthurzee Jun 27 at 7:14
  • @arthurzee, it depends on the context again. If you've already been talking about the company in question, then say "the owners", because in that case, they are identified as the owners of the company you are already talking about. If this is an out of the blue comment though, either one is likely to be confusing. The word "owners" only means anything if you know what they own in the first place. As long as the thing that the owners own is identified, the owners are too. They are only identified in relation to the thing owned. – Nic Estrada Jul 2 at 20:15
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I think you are trying to say "I am personally speaking to a number of people who are close to owners" (not the)

I wouldn't bother with saying "personally", because you are already saying "I", which means the same thing. So I would just say "I am speaking to a number of people who are close to owners" People like using personally for emphasis, so it is not incorrect.

  • So I feel that I am starting to get it, although this morning I got another curve ball, that caused some confusion. Me and my daughter were reading a book and two sentences confused me. "Chewing on THE carpet dog" "Playing with A ball dog". Both items are visible, so we knew that the author talks about them specifically, so why not, "Playing with THE ball dog"? Also, there are phrases like "On A Daily Basis".... Why not "On The Daily Basis"? – arthurzee Jul 17 at 11:04

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