A / the 2013 transfer of USD 681 million...

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Leafka

Senior Member
Polish
Hi,

I'm writing about a bank several transactions of which are under investigation:

A / the 2013 transfer of USD 681 million to an account held at the bank by the prime minister of Malaysia is also being investigated.

I imagine there was only one such a transfer; on the other hand, it's a (another, one more) transfer being investigated. Should it be 'a' or 'the'? :)
 
  • veggie21

    Senior Member
    English England
    The would mean that ONE transaction took place. A would mean that ONE of more than one transaction took place.
     

    VicNicSor

    Banned
    Russian
    The transfer is already known, even if it's not familiar to the reader. It's a specific transfer: the transfer of X etc.
    I have some problem with this:)
    To me, "a/the transfer of ..." is more like "a pile of stones" ("of stones" doesn't make the pile specific), rather than like "the beginning of the show" (where "of the show" does make "beginning" specific). Am I wrong?

    x-posted with veggie
     

    JulianStuart

    Senior Member
    English (UK then US)
    My preferences are

    A
    (large) 2013 transfer to an account held at the bank by the prime minister of Malaysia is also being investigated.

    The 2013 transfer of USD 681 million to an account held at the bank by the prime minister of Malaysia is also being investigated.
     
    Last edited:

    The Newt

    Senior Member
    English - US
    I have some problem with this:)
    To me, "a/the transfer of ..." is more like "a pile of stones" ("of stones" doesn't make the pile specific), rather than like "the beginning of the show" (where "of the show" does make "beginning" specific). Am I wrong?

    x-posted with veggie
    I'm not sure I follow you, but here's another example:

    A payment is being investigated by police.
    The payment is being investigated by police.


    Both of the above are possible, but we would consider the first vague and the second too specific, unless we knew what payment was being referred to by the definite article. But consider the following:

    A payment of $10,000 to a local pawnbroker by politician X is being investigated by police.
    The payment of $10,000 to a local pawnbroker by politician X is being investigated by police.

    Both of the above are fine, and there is only a stylistic difference between them. The additional information ($10,000 to a local pawnbroker etc.) is sufficient to ensure that we aren't in doubt about whether there are multiple payments of a similar nature, any one of which would fit the description; there was one specific payment under examination, and either article will do.
     

    VicNicSor

    Banned
    Russian
    Sorry I don't understand this:
    The additional information ($10,000 to a local pawnbroker etc.) is sufficient to ensure that we aren't in doubt about whether there are multiple payments of a similar nature, any one of which would fit the description; there was one specific payment under examination, and either article will do.
    Could you explain please. I mean, you're saying that this part -- "of $10,000 to a local pawnbroker by politician X" makes it clear "whether there are multiple payments of a similar nature, any one of which would fit the description"... But I can't understand what it means.
     

    The Newt

    Senior Member
    English - US
    Sorry I don't understand this:

    Could you explain please. I mean, you're saying that this part -- "of $10,000 to a local pawnbroker by politician X" makes it clear "whether there are multiple payments of a similar nature, any one of which would fit the description"... But I can't understand what it means.
    Providing that much detail makes it unlikely that the incident will be confused with a similar incident fitting the same description, just because the odds are low that there would be a virtually identical set of circumstances. For example: "A three-alarm fire on Elm Street last night that left twelve people homeless is being investigated as possible arson": yes, it's possible that there were multiple fires the same night, all of which left twelve people homeless, but we're generally comfortable enough that confusion is unlikely that we can use the indefinite article. Doing so is particularly common in journalism, especially with passive sentences.
     

    VicNicSor

    Banned
    Russian
    Providing that much detail makes it unlikely that the incident will be confused with a similar incident fitting the same description, just because the odds are low that there would be a virtually identical set of circumstances. For example: "A three-alarm fire on Elm Street last night that left twelve people homeless is being investigated as possible arson": yes, it's possible that there were multiple fires the same night, all of which left twelve people homeless, but we're generally comfortable enough that confusion is unlikely that we can use the indefinite article. Doing so is particularly common in journalism, especially with passive sentences.
    I see, one question:):
    1. The/a payment of $10,000 to a local pawnbroker by politician X is being investigated by police.
    2. The/a 2013 transfer of USD 681 million to an account held at the bank by the prime minister of Malaysia is also being investigated.
    3. The three-alarm fire on Elm Street last night that left twelve people homeless is being investigated as possible arson".

    Do I correctly understand that '3' differs from '1' and '2' because of the "of"? I mean, In '1' and '2', A and THE at the beginning of the sentence could be used interchangeably, but in '3', THE implies that this fire is supposed to be already known to the reader/listener?
     

    The Newt

    Senior Member
    English - US
    [...]
    3. The three-alarm fire on Elm Street last night that left twelve people homeless is being investigated as possible arson".

    Do I correctly understand that '3' differs from '1' and '2' because of the "of"? I mean, In '1' and '2', A and THE at the beginning of the sentence could be used interchangeably, but in '3', THE implies that this fire is supposed to be already known to the reader/listener?
    Either article could be used in #3. The definite article would suggest some degree of prior familiarity with the event on the part of the audience; that may be less so in the other two examples, but I don't know whether the presence of "of" is the reason.
     
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