the Indefinite and Definite Article with Animals


Rule 6.3: Use the definite article when generalizing about an entire species or breed of animal.


The German Shepherd is well known for its intelligence, loyalty, and strength (the entire breed of German Shepherd)
One of the very first animals to be domesticated was the chicken. (the entire species of chicken)


Exercise 5: Fill in the blanks with the or Ø.


Rule 6.4: Use the indefinite article or the definite article when it is possible to generalize about an animal; or breed of animal, by entire species or by each individual case.


The giraffe has a very long neck. (giraffes as an entire species)
A giraffe has a very long neck. (each and every giraffe)


The dog can be trained to understand simple commands. (dogs an entire species)
A dog can be trained to understand simple commands. (each and every dog)


Exercise 6: Fill in the blanks with a, an, and/or the. More than one blank can be filled in some cases.


Exception to Rule 6.4: Be aware that there are cases when it is possible to generalize about an animal by entire species, but not by each individual case.


Correct: The Irish Elk went extinct over 7 000 years ago. (the entire species)
Incorrect: An Irish Elk went extinct over 7 000 years ago. (It is not possible for one individual animal to make an entire species go extinct)


Correct: Modern man depends on the dairy cow for milk. (the entire species)
Incorrect: Modern man depends on a dairy cow for milk. (It is not possible for one dairy cow to produce enough milk for all mankind)


Exercise 7: Fill in the blanks with a, an, or the. Some problems require more than two blanks to be filled.