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-Have your heard anything about Nick?
-Yes. He found a job in a Swiss company. (The) employees don't like him much though

(The) employees. Does the absence or the presence of a definite article change something?

1) Theory number 1 The employees means all of the employees of the company and Employees means some of them.

2) Theory number 2. The employees would be correct and Employees would be wrong because we're talking about the employees of this Swiss company and a definite article doesn't imply all the employees

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(1) would only be used very loosely and colloquially (probably in an Oldham [NW England] accent - and this would have been far more common 50 years ago, probably with 'workers' or 't'other workers) as a reduced form of the variant with the definite article. Your second 'theory' is correct. 'Some of the employees' would be used to show non-universality. –  Edwin Ashworth Nov 8 '13 at 11:08
    
@Edwin Ashworth Remember the light-bulb advertisement? You may not be old enough! 'I told'em Oldham, tha's what I told'em, Oldham. 'Oldham?' Aye, Oldham, tha's what I told'em'. –  WS2 Nov 8 '13 at 11:28
    
@EdwinAshworth a bit confused here. So a definite article does imply all the employees? –  Dunno Nov 8 '13 at 16:31
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3 Answers 3

up vote 1 down vote accepted

I'll spell it out.

(1) -Have you heard anything about Nick? -Yes. He's found a job in a Swiss company. The employees don't like him much though.

(a) Sounds just about acceptable (remember 'the employees' now includes Nick).

(b) Is probably intended to mean 'a fair number of the other employees don't like him much'.

(2) -Have you heard anything about Nick? -Yes. He's found a job in a Swiss company. The other employees don't like him much though.

(a) Sounds totally acceptable.

(b) Is again probably intended to mean 'a fair number of the other employees don't like him much', though it strictly means all of them.

(3) -Have you heard anything about Nick? -Yes. He's found a job in a Swiss company. Some of the other employees don't like him much though.

(a) Totally acceptable.

(b) Means what it says.

(4) -Have you heard anything about Nick? -Yes. He's found a job in a Swiss company. Employees don't like him much though.

(a) If a shortened form of (1), non-standard, and very rare nowadays.

And unlikely to be used as a general statement (All employees everywhere don't like him much though.) as it follows on 'in a Swiss company' so closely - restructuring of the sentences, and perhaps more information, would be preferable: -Yes. He's found a job in a Swiss company. But he always seems to rub his colleagues up the wrong way.

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I think (1) is fine, because the much in “The employees don't like him much” hedges the statement. It could well be that some of the employees do like him, just not very much overall. Without much, the statement is a little more problematic, and your other suggestions would be an improvement, but it would still be understood fine. –  Bradd Szonye Nov 8 '13 at 21:05
    
My problem with (1) is that using 'the employees' is not strictly correct; 'the other employees' is, now that Nick is one of the workforce. –  Edwin Ashworth Nov 9 '13 at 6:31
    
@EdwinAshworth Thanks! I'd like to ask one follow up. If we have the next sentences: employees in this company work a lot is like a general idea about the company? the employees in this company work a lot in this case it means all of them? If we pick one of these sentences, all the subsequent references of employees will have to have 'the' and carry one of the ideas (general idea vs all of them) to the end of a conversation about the company? And it's impossible to say employees without 'the' while we're talking about the company ? –  Dunno Nov 9 '13 at 13:25
    
English is not easy, and article usage certainly contributes to the difficulty. These two (bolded) sentences mean virtually (ie I'd have to think very hard of a situation where they don't) exactly the same thing. –  Edwin Ashworth Nov 9 '13 at 22:34
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Forget Oldham! That only makes it more confusing.

If you say 'The employees of the company' you make it clear that it is only the employees of that particular company who dislike him.

Saying 'employees' without the article, would imply that all employees everywhere didn't like him.

But the problem with using the article is that it suggests that ALL employees of the company 'do not like him much', which may be incorrect. Therefore you may wish to say 'A lot of the employees do not....', or 'Some of the employees....', or 'Most of the employees....', etc.

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Another solution would be to use a phrase like "His colleagues."

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How exactly would that help? –  WS2 Nov 8 '13 at 20:09
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