a (the) hobbled American

A quote from NY Times:

What is more, some industry analysts said that a hobbled American, which is still trying to emerge from bankruptcy protection, would struggle to compete against the two giants, United Airlines and Delta Air Lines.
Why do we use A before “hobbled American”? The company (American Airlines) is mentioned earlier in the text, so logically the noun should take THE. I filled in THE in the position before "hobbled" when solving a self-test.. Would the sentence look OK with THE?
 
  • perpend

    Banned
    American English
    Could have been creative writing.

    That said, both "a" and "the" could fit, in my opinion.
     

    entangledbank

    Senior Member
    English - South-East England
    'The' would indeed be more normal. 'A' is justifiable because it picks out the thing under one aspect, but it's rather journalese: a disgruntled Mr Kerry explained . . .
     
    Thanks, entangledbank, perpend!
    But I've re-read my question and the NYT article just now and came up with a different idea: it seems that "A hobbled American" may mean "if American Airlines is prohibited from going ahead with the proposed merger" (then American would be hobbled and would struggle to compete against two other big companies).
     

    perpend

    Banned
    American English
    I've said it to myself with both "a" and "the" several times, and I still think both are possible. Maybe it depends on how the preceding text was written.

    There could be an argument that "a" is better, since it's subjunctive (or a hypothetical?): ... "a" hobbled American (Airlines) .... would struggle ...

    I think for subjunctive, "a" is preferred.
     

    TommyGun

    Senior Member
    There could be an argument that "a" is better, since it's subjunctive (or a hypothetical?): ... "a" hobbled American (Airlines) .... would struggle ...

    I think for subjunctive, "a" is preferred.
    Why do you think it is a subjunctive?

    I would put it down to reported speech where that would is the past tense of will.

    ... analysts said that a hobbled American, ... would struggle to compete agains ...
     

    perpend

    Banned
    American English
    Why do you think it is a subjunctive?

    I would put it down to reported speech where that would is the past tense of will.

    ... analysts said that a hobbled American, ... would struggle to compete agains ...
    The "would" in this context is not the past tense of "will".
     

    e2efour

    Senior Member
    UK English
    Why do you think it is a subjunctive?

    I would put it down to reported speech where that would is the past tense of will.
    Would is by definition the past tense of will (technically a modal preterite). But that doesn't get you very far. I would even say that most native speakers do not know this -- they are certainly unlikely to think about it. It's better just to think of would as a special verb.

    It could be that the original statement used will, but they could also have said would, which does not change in reported speech.
    In that case it would be the same as what is sometimes called the second conditional: If the company didn't succeed, it would go bankrupt.
     
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