should there be a the before americans?
this is a speical table that the americans use
this is a speical table that americans use
It depends on the context.
Suppose there were 40 students at a summer school, and 10 of them were American; they could be referred to as 'the Americans', so your first sentence would fit that context.
On the other hand, suppose at a US airport there is a distinct procedure for American citizens (I don't know there is, but make that assumption for the sake of the example). Any American who gets off a plane uses one table; the airport authorities refer to it as 'a special table that Americans use'.
I bet Humble will have a fuller explanation than this!
I agree with Bobk.
the, a definite article, defines the noun it modifies. So, for example, the word "Americans" express all Americans in general, whereas "the Americans" expresses a specfic group of Americans - a group set apart from another group; e.g., groups who sit at different table. Like this here, where there's a comparison being made:
Ex: This is a special table that the Americans use, and that over there is a special table that the Canadians use.
If you don't want to express a comparison, then don't single out the noun by using the. Omit it, like this,
Ex: This is a special table that Americans use.
The meaning being expressed there is that no comparison is being made.
Hope that helps.
A similar question has been raised before - it seems in October 2006, so I wouldn't like to repeat myself; but -just in case- I will make a small addition:
The Americans can mean all the nation, the country as a political entity.
The Americans are seen as arrogant and oppressive in many Arab countries.
But of course my addition is needless if the questioner's interest is limited to the use of articles in that particular phrase, which has been explained exhaustively by Bob and Casiopea.
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