A – any one (unspecific)

Refer to one as an example of all

violin
 

 

Any one vs. A specific one

A  (ANY ONE) UNSPECIFIC

When speaking in general, mentioning characterics of a particular item, the article a is used before a noun. "This is true for any like it."

A violin is an important part of a symphony. (any violin)

It takes several years to learn to play a violin well.

A cello is larger than a violin.

A violin has four strings.

It's much easier to carry a violin than a bass cello.

A  (PARTICULAR ONE) SPECIFIC

When speaking specifically about a particular item, use "a" to refer to something you observe or have knowledge about and are mentioning for the first time.

A violin was given to the conservatory. (a particular violin)

A student will be learning to play the violin.

A recital in which the student will play is scheduled in June.

A reception will follow the recital.

 
 

One could also use the if referring to the class The violin is an important part of the symphony.  The choice of a violin or the violin depends on the context of the writing.  We tend to use the in more scholarly contexts, especially in encyclopediaa or scientific journals.  Newspaper writing variies on this choice of articles.

Wikipedia contributors. "Violin." Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 17 Nov. 2012. Web. 27 Nov. 2012.

 

unspecific and indefinite — Violins have four strings.

unspecific and indefinite — A violin has four strings. (True for any violin.) / The violin has four strings. (True of the class of instruments.) [encyclopedia use]

specific but indefinite — A violin was given to the music school (a violin but we're not sure which one.)

specific and definite — The violin that you gave me is very old. (We know which one it is.)

 

 

 

 

 

A

In general / A specific one

Ukelele-hawaiian stringed instrument
 

 

Speaking Generally or Referring Specifically

SPEAKING IN GENERAL

 Use a before a noun that mentions the quality or characteristics of all such items.

A ukulele is a four-stringed instrument.

A red car is more visible to a Highway Patrol Officer.

 A joke can be a good way to start a speech.
 

SPEAKING ABOUT A SPECIFIC ONE

 Use a before a noun that is identified as one item specifically.

A ukulele found at a garage sale turned out to be excellent.

A red car stopped by a Highway Patrol Officer was speeding.

A joke told at the beginning of his speech made everyone laugh.

 

ukulele (n.) – a small Hawaiian guitar

 

 

 

 

 

 

Practice 1

A Violin

violin
 

Does the sentence refer to a specific or unspecific one?

  1. Select the response from the list that best completes the sentence. 
  2. Compare your response to the feedback by clicking the "check" button.

 

1-6.
A violin is a stringed instrument. It has four strings: E, A, D, G
A violin is a stringed instrument. It has four strings: E, A, D, G.
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Practice 2

A Specific One

Antonius Stradivarius
 

 

Read the Context

An anonymous American bidder paid $920,000 at a Paris auction Tuesday for a violin crafted by Italian master instrument-maker Antonius Stradivari in 1714. A second Stradivarious, said by experts to have been made in 1698 but modified afterwards, was purchased by an anonymous European bidder for about $716,000, French auctioneers Drouot said. The sales were the high points of Tuesday's auction of 115 stringed instruments and bows at Drouot's Paris headquarters.

Auctioneer Jacques Tajan had predicted before the sale that the violin made in 1714 -- which he described as an exquisite instrument -- would sell for between $583,000 and $833,333.

"If it sold for a million dollars, this would make me very happy," he had said.
Stradivari's violins are extremely rare and fetch extraordinary prices when they come up for sale.
A British woman paid about $617,000 in London in June, 1995, for a Stradivarius for her 10-year-old daughter, a music student in Germany.

Original news article

anonymous –  unknown, unnamed person; "without name"

 

 

 

 

 

A specific or unspecific one?

  1. Select your response—specific or unspecific.
  2. Compare your response to the feedback by clicking the "check" button.

 

7.
PARIS (Reuters) - An anonymous American bidder paid $920,000 at a Paris auction Tuesday for a violin crafted by Italian master instrument-maker Antonius Stradivari in 1714.  

A violin refers to:




8.
A second Stradivarius, said by experts to have beenmade in 1698 but modified afterward, was purchased by an anonymous European bidder for about $716,000, French auctioneers Drouot said. The sales were the high points of Tuesday's auction of 115 stringed instruments and bows at Drouot's Paris headquarters.

A second Stradivarius refers to:




9.
Auctioneer Jacques Tajan had predicted before the sale that the violin made in 1714 -- which he described as an exquisite instrument -- would sell for between $583,000 and $833,333 "If it sold for a million dollars, this would make me very happy," he had said.

An exquisite instrument refers to:




10.
A Stradivarius violin is extremely rare and may fetch an extraordinary price when it comes up for sale. A British woman paid about $617,000 in London in June, 1995, for a Stradivarius for her 10-year-old daughter, a music student in Germany.

A Stradivarius violin refers to:




 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Practice 3

Speaking in general or specifically

 

 

 

Decide whether the sentence refers to a specific one or an unspecific one.

  1. Select the response from the list that best completes the sentence. 
  2. Compare your response to the feedback by clicking the "Check" button to the left  as you go.
11.

12.

13.

14.
devour (v.) – eat hungrily

15.

16.

17.

18.

19.

20.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Practice 4

A Characteristic in Common

 

 

 

Sometimes a characteristic is used with a variety of things that look like, function like, have the shape of the item, for example, a hand, a foot, an ear, a head, a leg, and so on.

 

21.
all share one part

22.
all share one thing

23.
all share a word

24.
all share a body part

25.
all share a characteristic item

26.
all share a characteristic

27.
all share a something

28.
all share a word

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Additional Activities

A — any one

 

 

Beginning

Name One. I am thinking of… Name typical physical characteristics of an animal (animate): (a) give the characteristics of an animal and ask the other person to guess an animal that fits the description; or (b) show a picture of an animal and ask the other person to give three physical characteristics of the animal. (A jaguar is light brown, has spots, a small head and powerful legs.)

 

Intermediate

The Feature Game. Name an instrument or mobile device (inanimate). State three features of the item. (A harp. A harp has a head, a column, a foot, 47 strings and tuning pins.) Later, they will use "the" to refer to a class of instrument. See The-Classification (Instruments).

 

Advanced

The Pyramid Game. Explore other meanings of common nouns. Things that have "a head" (lettuce, a person, a trail, foam on a glass of beer, a company), "an eye" (an animal [a cyclops], a potato, a hurricane, a needle), "a tail" (a lizard, a comet, a coin, a coat, a coward), "a wheel", "a leg", "a foot", "an ear", "a cell", "a neck", "a hand", "a stem", "a trunk", "a wall", "a ring", etc. Use an online dictionary to help you think of additional uses or meanings of words.