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  1. #1
    kooiu is offline Junior Member
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    Definitions and the Definite Article

    Is it optional to use the definite article in definitions given that "the" is omitted in sentence (a) below? That is, are definite definitions (with the definite article) the same as indefinite definitions (with indefinite articles of "a", "an", or "zero article")?

    (a) Public problems refer to conditions that the public sees as unacceptable and need intervention.

    (b) Policy outputs refer to the formal actions that governmen take to pursue their goals.

  2. #2
    Tdol is offline Editor, UsingEnglish.com
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    Re: Definitions and the Definite Article

    Without the definite article, it doesn't imply to me that all such conditions/formal actions are included.

  3. #3
    kooiu is offline Junior Member
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    Re: Definitions and the Definite Article

    Quote Originally Posted by Tdol View Post
    Without the definite article, it doesn't imply to me that all such conditions/formal actions are included.
    Thank you Tdol for your prompt reply. Please I need more explanation to connect with your reply. Were you saying, it does not matter whether the definite or indefinte article is used?

    For example in another book, I do not know why "the" was not included in (b)

    (a) Majority rule "refers to the form of decision making where the will of the majority is primary"

    (b) Democracy "refers a form of decision making where people are sovereign"

    Does it also mean the same things to write:
    (a) Majority rule "refers to a form of decision making where the will of the majority is primary"

    (b) Democracy "refers the form of decision making where people are sovereign"
    Last edited by kooiu; 13-Jun-2009 at 00:22. Reason: mistake

  4. #4
    Pedroski is offline Senior Member
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    Re: Definitions and the Definite Article

    I think the reason there is no determiner in front of Public problems is because Public problems is a plural compound noun.

    If you put The public problems, you reduce public to an adjective.
    Public problems (they) refer to conditions that the public sees as unacceptable and need intervention.
    'The public problems' refers to conditions that the public sees as unacceptable and need intervention.

  5. #5
    kooiu is offline Junior Member
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    Re: Definitions and the Definite Article

    Pedroski,
    Thank you for your reply. However, my question is not about whether or not there should be a determiner before "public problems". As you can see in my original post, there is no determiner before "policy outputs" as well. My question is about the use of "the" in defining policy outputs (refer to the formal actions), majority rule (refers to the form), and the absence of "the" in defining public problems, democracy.


    Is the use of the definite article a substitute for the indefinite article in definitions, and why?

    For example in another book, I do not know why "the" was not included in (b)

    (a) Majority rule "refers to the form of decision making where the will of the majority is primary"

    (b) Democracy "refers a form of decision making where people are sovereign"


    There must be reasons for these I think.

  6. #6
    Tdol is offline Editor, UsingEnglish.com
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    Re: Definitions and the Definite Article

    (a) Majority rule "refers to the form of decision making where the will of the majority is primary"
    Where the will of the majority is sovereign, there is only one form of decision making, which accounts for 'the form...'. Other forms of government are excluded and irrelevant to the point of this sentence.
    (b) Democracy "refers a form of decision making where people are sovereign"
    Here we have the indefinite article because democracy is one of a number of forms of decision making and these are relevant to this sentence as democracy contrasts with them as the people are not sovereign.

  7. #7
    kooiu is offline Junior Member
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    Re: Definitions and the Definite Article

    Tdol,
    Thank you for your explanation. What about the following:

    (a) Public problems refer to conditions that the public sees as unacceptable and need intervention.

    (b) Policy outputs refer to the formal actions that governmen take to pursue their goals.

  8. #8
    Pedroski is offline Senior Member
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    Re: Definitions and the Definite Article

    There is only one public for the government to try and catch the votes of. The public.
    Policy outputs refer to the actions, not a particular action.

  9. #9
    kooiu is offline Junior Member
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    Re: Definitions and the Definite Article

    what difference does it make if "the" is put before "conditions" to read

    Public problems refer to the conditions that the public sees as unacceptable and need intervention.

    as opposed
    Public problems refer to conditions that the public sees as unacceptable and need intervention.

  10. #10
    Tdol is offline Editor, UsingEnglish.com
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    Re: Definitions and the Definite Article

    Then all conditions that the public sees as unacceptable are public oproblems, which is probably not the case as there will be private issues that are also unacceptable.

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