In an English test book I found the exercise

  1. That is a book. The book is thick. That book isn't thin. This is an interesting thick book.

Another one example

  1. This is a compuer. The computer isn't old. This compuer is new. This is a good new computer.

I know the rule:

Use the to refer something that has already been mentioned.

I understand it like this:

That is a book. - The book is being introduced for the first time. We use the indefinite article.

The book is thick. - The book is being introduced for the second time. So we use the definite article.

That book isn't thin. - "That" is a demonstrative pronoun. Before the word "book" we should use no article.

This is an interesting thick book. - Why is there an indefinite article? We mentioned the book for the third time. We know about this book. I thought the sentence must be like "This is the interesting thick book."

The first mention - a/an. The second (third/fourth) mention - the

Please explain this situation?

Maybe it is due to "This is an interesting thick book." We mentioned the book, not the interesting thick book/ So the interesting thick book is the new information for us.

I think I understand! Am I right?

  • 2
    I think you are meant to understand those sentences separately, not as part of a continuing conversation. In This is an interesting book, we assume the book hasn't been mentioned before. If it had, we could say This is the interesting book that I told you about yesterday. Nov 4, 2020 at 11:00
  • All sentences related to the one story Nov 4, 2020 at 11:12
  • Maybe these sentences can be changed to: "That is a book. The book is thick. That book isn't thin. The book is an interesting thick book." This is = The book. Nov 4, 2020 at 11:15
  • Yes, they could be. Nov 4, 2020 at 11:23
  • //That book isn't thin. - "That" is a demonstrative pronoun. Before the word "book" we should use no article.// Here, 'that' is not a pronoun; the phrase 'that book' has a pronominal use.
    – Ram Pillai
    Dec 2, 2020 at 16:55

4 Answers 4


Yes, you've mentioned the book before.

What you haven't mentioned is that it belongs in the category "interesting book". That category happens to use the same noun, but it's a different book altogether. The one book and the other book are two different books.

To better see that, replace the second book with a different noun.

  • This book is a disgrace.
  • This book is a delight.
  • This book is a revelation.

And so, by the same token,

  • This book is a book about science.
  • This book is a book by Joe Smith.
  • This book is an interesting book.

If instead you straight away say "This book is the interesting book", that means that it's already been established not what book you're talking about, but what interesting book you're talking about.


In your example, the sentences about the book might just be separate sentences that serve as separate examples. However, if we read them as forming a single paragraph, they can describe two books: “that” book and “this” book. The interesting book refers to “this” book, which happens to be the first reference to it. By this measure, using an indefinite article satisfies your heuristics.

However, another use of the indefinite article is to signify “one element of a class”. (Singleton classes are an interesting case that still work with “a/an” in that construction, but that’s a sidetrack.) Your computer example works well here: “This is a computer .... It is a good [one].” Here, “a” functions functions to highlight the adjective good. You can think of this mechanically as “this is one of those in the class of good things”. Saying it is the good one goes a step further to apply good exclusively to that instance.

This is consistent with your intuition. In your question, you use “a” and “an” this way (I’ve changed the formatting to show this more clearly here):

  • That book isn't thin. - "That" is a demonstrative pronoun.

  • This is an interesting thick book. - Why is there an indefinite article?

You’ve already referenced the demonstrative and the article within the immediate context, but still use “a” and “an”. That’s because you’re not using the indefinite article(s) to introduce new nouns, but to qualify or to highlight/describe them. That’s what’s happening with the computer and book examples you quoted.


We use the definite article to talk about only one specific group/thing. However, the indefinite article is used to talk about things in general, or things which are unspecified.

Now your confusion is that why it is “an interesting book”, not “the interesting book”. The answer is simple, when we say “this is an interesting book”, we generally suggest that this book is interesting. But when we say “this is the interesting book”, we mean that this is the only interesting group out of a specified group. For example, you have 4 books, out of which 3 books are boring and 1 book is interesting, then in this situation you can say that this is the interesting book, which suggests that there is only interesting group out of the group of 4 books.

Consider this:

This is a book. The book [“the” because we are talking about 1 specific book here, not books in general] is full of beautiful pictures. This is an interesting book [we generally mean that this book is an interesting book]. Yes, the book is very interesting. I have four books, but this book is the interesting book [as I previously explained in my example that why “the” is appropriate here].


The element of "interest" or "goodness" again redefines an otherwise specified item and deserts it in the anonymity of other such items and makes it indefinite for the first time.Let there be another reference of it; it will no longer be indefinite. But if you add yet another new quality it will again be relegated to indefinite group.

●A historically interesting thick book

Similarly, the good new computer is

● an essentially good new computer.

So in the final analysis you can make one definite item indefinite by making it anonymous with addition of any new quality.

  • I'm not sure if this English is over my head or unidiomatic. Perhaps both. Dec 2, 2020 at 20:21

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