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Grammar notes

Using or omitting the definite article the

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The may be used when the noun or noun phrase is specific, i.e. when there is an answer to the question 'which?' or 'what?' The may be omitted when a plural noun or noun phrase is used in a general (indefinite) sense.
  • the time (which is) taken
  • the problem (which we must address)
  • the problems (which) we have yet to consider
  • the computer industry


Note: The words in brackets above are unstated but assumed to be understood by the reader.
  • computers
  • video signals
  • TV signals
  • fax machines
  • messages
  • children

The is also used in the following cases

  • Things known to everyone
  • Things that are unique
  • Widely known inventions
  • Time expressions
The is used with time expressions
  • the past
  • the present
  • the future
  • the 1990s
Things that are unique
  • the internet
  • the Web
Things known to everyone
  • the world
  • the sun
  • the stars
Widely known inventions
  • the computer
  • the telescope
  • the microchip
The may be used when the noun or noun phrase is specific, i.e. when there is an answer to the question: 'which?' or 'what?' The may be omitted when a plural noun or noun phrase is used in a general (indefinite) sense.
  • the development of management accounting
  • the role of management
  • the changes which have occurred
  • the basis of this discussion
  • traditional management-accounting practices
  • business operations
  • rapid economic changes
  • recommendations
  • costs
Examples
  • The role of what?

    Answer: the role of management accounting


  • Which changes?

    Answer: the changes which have occurred
Examples
  • rapid economic changes (general, plural)
  • business operations (general, plural)
  • costs (general, plural)
The may be used when writing of something as a single entity The may be omitted when describing the parts that make up that entity
  • the global marketplace
  • the marketplace
  • global markets
  • markets
Examples
  • Changes in the global market have expanded the role of management accountants.
  • Yesterday, markets around the world reacted to an overnight fall on Wall Street.
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