a / the whole

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Senior Member
He isn't hungry. He's eaten a /the whole plate of porridge.

My choice is 'a whole'. However it does contradict the rule: 'the whole' -specific thing; 'a whole' - non-specific thing. Please help me to work it out.

Thanks in advance.
  • entangledbank

    Senior Member
    English - South-East England
    'The whole plate of porridge' is the previously known or identified plate(ful) or one that is obvious in the situation. 'A whole plate of porridge' introduces the porridge for the first time; it's not this (known, identifiable) plateful or that plateful, but some or other plateful that's not specifically identified.
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