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E.g.

"Although they work in most cases, they cannot handle cases when a comment or script is broken by the cutting"

Should I put "the" between "handle" and "cases"?

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2  
No, it's not necessary. You can either specify those cases with the, or you can allow them to inferred with no article. No difference except rhythm, really. –  John Lawler Jun 5 '13 at 18:33
    
What @John said - including his own (possibly unintended) implication that it could just as naturally be expressed as they cannot handle those cases... Which for no particular reason, I personally would follow with where rather than when (plus I'd probably drop the repetition of cases). –  FumbleFingers Jun 5 '13 at 20:46

3 Answers 3

I think both constructions are similarly clear to the reader. For some people, I think there is a slight difference in connotation depending on what you mean by "most cases" in your opening clause.

If what you are referencing works in all cases except those in which a comment or script is broken by the cutting, then using "the" seems more appropriate to me. If what you are referencing works in most cases but doesn't work in some cases, including but not limited to those in which a comment or script is broken by the cutting, then dropping "the" seems seems more appropriate to me.

"The" is a definite article and usually is used to refer to something specific. In this case, for some, using the article "the" will emphasize the uniqueness of the cases that you mention. In the first example, the cases that you mention are particularly unique. Including a "the" makes this more apparent. In the second example, the cases that you mention are different but not particularly unique. Dropping the "the" de-emphasizes the uniqueness and might help some people to realize what you are referencing might not work in other scenarios as well.

[EDIT: Addendum]

It's not particularly relevant that you have noun followed by a clause. For the purposes of this discussion, just treat the whole thing ("cases when a comment or script is broken by the cutting") as an object.

[Post edited to better deserve it's upvote!]

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I can't quite make up my mind on this one, so I'm upvoting partly to counterbalance what I think is an unjustified downvote. I think it might help to imagine appending , for example to the original. I don't much like the in the first place (I'd much prefer either nothing or those), but I think I like it even less after adding , for example. Which does rather support your case. –  FumbleFingers Jun 5 '13 at 20:57
    
Thanks @FumbleFingers. I'm just starting to try to answer questions, so I'm not sure what constitutes a Good Response. Incidentally, I just edited this sentence in a paper I am writing, adding the "the": "While their model is more complex, we focus on the three key components of their model that relate to (a specific topic)." In this context, I think adding the "the" makes it clearer that the other components don't address the specific topic of the paper; however, that might be my biased perspective. –  chaosamoeba Jun 5 '13 at 21:05
    
Well, presumably whoever downvoted you positively disagreed your distinction. Whereas I probably wouldn't have upvoted if it hadn't been to counteract that. But I'd definitely have upvoted if your first paragraph had explicitly made the point that some people might make the distinction (others might see it as purely a matter of style rather than meaning). Whatever - I think you've made a good start with this answer, and I look forward to reading more (I see from another browser window that there's already another one for me to check out, so I'll end this comment here! :) –  FumbleFingers Jun 5 '13 at 21:26

"The" is a definite article. So the only reason you might to add "the" is if you have mentioned "broken comments or scripts by the cutting" earlier in your writing.

For example:

One way to create good comments and scripts is by using X, Y and Z. Y is a great at handling cases where comments and scripts are broken by cutting but its does not work when… X is the most widely used method. Although they work in most cases, they cannot handle the cases when a comment or script is broken by the cutting

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The sub-phrase "the cutting" seems odd, but we can assume that "the cutting" is some domain-specific term or a qualified noun (e.g. with an implied adjective) in a larger context.

So let's look at the core flow:

Although they work in most cases, they cannot handle the cases when a comment or script is broken by the cutting.

When spoken it sounds awkward. That's because it has a plurality conflict:

the case when a comment or script is broken by (the?) cutting

This is because of the sub-phrase

comment or script is broken by the cutting

has a singular subject.

Although they work in most cases, they cannot handle the case when a comment or a script is broken by (the) cutting

To clarify let's consider a slightly simpler phrase:

Although they like most cars, they do not like the car when it is red

vs.

Although they like most cars, they do not like the cars when they are red

Please note that even though the compound phrase is singular, the phrase does not lose the sense of cardinality because the entire noun-phrase becomes a common noun.

Now for the the in the cutting and whether it's a qualified noun:

Although they like most cars, they do not like the car when it is the colour red

vs.

Although they like most cars, they do not like the cars when they are the colour red

However if in a previous context "the colour red" was qualified you can drop "red":

Although they like most cars, they do not like the car when it is the colour

vs.

Although they like most cars, they do not like the cars when they are the colour

Applying this approach to your phrase then:

Proper construction would be either:

Although they work in most cases, they cannot handle the cases when comments or scripts are broken by the cutting.

OR

Although they work in most cases, they cannot handle the case when a comment or script is broken by the cutting.

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