a or the

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puffin
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a or the

Post by puffin » Wed Oct 02, 2019 5:34 am

Hello Alan. I have a question about the use of the article in the following sentence which I come across in the latest issue of The Guardian (20 Sep. 2019, p.7):

Donald Trump confirmed that the US has killed Hamza bin Laden, a son of the former al=Qaida leader Osama bin Laden.

I am not sure why "a" was used to modify "son" as the word "son" was defined by the phrase "the former al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden". I have been told that if a noun is defined by another thing, a "the" should be used.

Can you help me out? Thanks a lot!

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Alan
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Re: a or the

Post by Alan » Thu Oct 03, 2019 7:48 am

The choice of article here depends entirely on the number of items (here, sons of Osama Bin Laden) that are known/believed by the speaker to exist. If he has/is thought to have only one son, then we will say 'the son'. If he has/is thought to have more than one, then 'a son' is the appropriate choice.

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