Suppose that you are giving a Powerpoint presentation on the relationship between addition and multiplication using your computer. You are now showing the next slide with an example. You are going to say this next.

(1a) To show this relationship, I have made up an example below.

4 x 3 = 4 + 4 + 4

 

My non-native English speaking friends think the indefinite article is wrong because I am talking about the specific example below. So, they revised it to make (1b) below. 

(1b) To show this relationship, I have made up the example below.

4 x 3 = 4 + 4 + 4 

Furthermore, they say if I want to use the indefinite article, I need to put a comma before the word, "below".

(1c) ... I have made up an example, below.

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To my non-native ears, my original choice of "an" sounds better. There are millions of examples I can give. Now, I set out to make up any one example randomly. I think the comma in (1c) is not necessary because I am telling the reader to look at what is coming up next, which is an example.

Which one is correct: 1a, 1b, or 1c? I really appreciate your time and help. Thank you very much. 

Original Post

Hi, Ansonman,

I think your friends are right. Placed after the noun, the adverb "below" is short for "that is below," which is a defining or restrictive clause that requires a definite article because there is only one example in that position. See the two sentences below:

X. To understand this more clearly, you can see the example (that is) below.

Y. Below, you can see an example that will help you understand this more clearly.

While in (X) the clause "that is below" refers to only one example, the one that is below (hence the use of the), in (Y) the clause "that will help you understand this more clearly" refers to one of several possible examples which can illustrate the point (hence the use of an).

Note: I don't like the comma before "below" in (1c). That comma could only represent a pause made while speaking to clarify where the example is to be found.

Nice analysis, Gustavo. I agree with everything you have said and would simply like to add that another natural way of saying "I have made up the example below" is to say "I have made up the following example." Right here on the Grammar Exchange, I have written sentences like "Please consider the following example" probably thousands of times.

Ansonman, if you really want to use "an," you could say:

  • I have made up an example, namely, the example that appears below.

But there is no need for such wordiness when you can go straight to "the."

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