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I have to fill the blank with an article (a,an or the)

Copper is _ useful metal.

Metal is a noun and it is qualified by an adjective 'useful'. But I can't find any rule pertaining to this situation and hence I'm not sure which article would be suitable.

Please provide me the answer with an appropriate reason.

closed as off-topic by Cascabel, Glorfindel, Jason Bassford, Chappo, JJJ Jun 20 at 17:24

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    Why do you think both "an" and "a" are still in the running? The consonant sound at the beginning of "useful" should tell you than "an" is unacceptable. – katatahito Jun 19 at 8:25
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    Usually a word starting with a vowel would take "an": an apple, an egg, an Italian, an open door, an ugly duckling. But if the SOUND is like a consonant then it takes an "a": a unique (something), a eulogy. This is true even with the names of the vowels: an a, an e, an i, an o, a U. – Old Brixtonian Jun 19 at 8:42
  • @katatahito Yes, I know it. So we are left with a and the, which is more suitable? – adesh mishra Jun 19 at 8:49
  • I've read your question on meta (-17) And you thought it was bad here... anyhoo, this looks like a homework question, in which case you should share what research you did to resolve the problem. Looking up metals or knowing that copper is a noun is minimal, and will not help you nor any future user, it is looking up "definite" vs "indefinite articles" that should help you resolve the dilemma. Then in a comment you say you know that "an" must be discarded, so why didn't you mention that in the question? – Mari-Lou A Jun 20 at 14:40
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Short answer: a should be used because copper is one one example under the category of useful metals which also could include aluminum, iron, gold, silver, among others.

In isolation, that is the answer most speakers would choose


Long Answer: It depends on the circumstance. To give one example:

An engineer is talking to their apprentice through why copper is (surprisingly to the apprentice) the metal used for a specific application

You would think steel would be used here, right? Most people do but this situation is different. Copper is the useful metal

This is a scenario where what is considered "useful" has been more narrowly defined, to where copper is the only member of the group (or at least the most useful of the members.) Therefore it is the metal as opposed to a metal.

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