a or the seven o'clock train?

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Senior Member
I was going to take a/the seven o'clock train to London.

My choice is 'the' , however if a student wrote 'a' would you mark it as a mistake?

Thanks in advance.
  • Matching Mole

    Senior Member
    England, English
    I think "the" is appropriate in every case I can think of, but in some cases "a" might be justified. A train leaving at 7 o'clock to a certain destination is going to be a specific train, if it is on a certain day, so it is "the 7 o'clock train to London". However, if it is not on a certain day, then a 7 o'clock train becomes one of several, so it would not be wrong to say: "When I go to London I tend to get a 7 o'clock train". However, there would still be a strong tendency to use "the" here too, in the sense of "the train that leaves at 7 on the day that I travel".


    Senior Member
    Standard Japanese, Sendaian Japanese
    How about if you think of a large transit station where different lines going out in every which way, and there may possibly be two or more 7:00 train scheduled to leave? Would this be a case where you might use 'a' seven o'clock train?




    Senior Member
    English - South-East England
    You usually catch trains for a specific destination: you want the train to London; the 7.00 to London. If there were multiple trains leaving at 7.00 you would still want one specific one: the one to London; and if several go to London that day, you want the seven o'clock (train) to London.

    One situation where we usually say 'a': if people go out for a drink or two after work, you might say you can't stay long, as you have to catch a seven o'clock train.


    Senior Member
    Australia English
    I have never heard of two trains for the same destination leaving at the same time.

    However, when enquiring about trains, you could ask:
    "Is there a 10 o'clock train to Exeter St David's?"
    The reply could be "There's a 10 o'clock only on Saturday."
    And you could say "I'd like a ticket for the 9 o'clock next Saturday."
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