"In 2002, a British chain of supermarkets announced a genetically modified carrot" - Does the article 'a' in this sentence have a generic function?

In "Practical English Usage" by M. Swan It is said: We can also generalise by talking about one example of a class, using a/an (meaning "any") with a singular countable noun - A baby deer can stand as soon as it's born

But you can't say here "In 2002, a British chain of supermarkets announced ANY genetically modified carrot" So is it generalisation or not?

  • 1
    No, it sounds like it’s talking about one GMO, as opposed to more. – Lawrence May 30 at 11:41
  • I'd say it has a generic function in the original sentence (announce a genetically modified carrot. It's a bit like the granny smith is a juicy apple, which refers to all granny smith apples. – Minty May 30 at 12:07
  • ChrisM (!), in ChrisM Language at WordPress, is wiser than to use terminology and tests that may/will eventually become overstretched: 'Another use of [the] Indefinite Article is when we want to ”generalise” but still really talk about only one thing.' [corrected] // A genetically modified carrot (as opposed to many other varieties already in production) and also the first mention in the article – so 'a'. – Edwin Ashworth May 30 at 18:17

I'm pretty sure they were not announcing a single genetically modified carrot but the practice of stocking for sale a choice of carrots, genetically modified in addition to normal ones. The 'a' then is generic. But you're right, the use of 'Any' is not correct.

They could decide to not include any genetically modified carrots. The any would then be describing the exclusion of the set.

  • Yes, 'a genetically modified carrot' as opposed to 'a nice turquoise variety', 'a really peppery one', 'one that smells of octopus'.... Not one of many GM carrots soon to follow. I've had to correct my 'comment' above. +1 (Not much scope for adding supporting references other than examples here.) – Edwin Ashworth May 30 at 18:21

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