English Language & Usage Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for linguists, etymologists, and serious English language enthusiasts. It's 100% free, no registration required.

Sign up
Here's how it works:
  1. Anybody can ask a question
  2. Anybody can answer
  3. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top

Here's the sentence from Wall Street Journal:

...eight individuals have been deported on grounds of national security.

Instead of this, if one says,

...eight individuals have been deported on the grounds of national security.

Any difference?

share|improve this question

I can find two rules to define this :

  1. No article is needed before abstract nouns used in a general sense.
    2.Articles are not needed in more abstract expressions of situation like to/at sea, to/at/out of work, in/out of town, in/out of office, etc.

I have a feeling that your expression on the grounds of would fit in as an abstract expression, as grounds is an abstract idea, not literally the ground.

Thus, whether or not you have the definite article doesn't matter. The meaning doesn't change, and there's no difference.

share|improve this answer
The only difference to a reader is that "on the grounds of" could mean in a physical location, so there may be a slight mental jolt when they hit the words "national security". Omitting "the" eliminates this since "the" is required in phrases like "on the grounds of the National Mall". – David Schwartz Aug 30 '11 at 0:21

A Google Ngram charting the phrases "on grounds of national" (blue line) versus "on the grounds of national" (red line) shows that both phrasings have been in fairly common use in published works for decades, with "on grounds of national" holding a consistent (but rather slight since 1980) advantage since 1950:

That record of usage strongly suggests that both forms are widely accepted, and I don't detect any difference in sense between them. (As an aside, I checked many of the underlying Ngram Books matches to see whether "on the grounds of national" might be enjoying inflated results owing to instances of phrases like "on the grounds of national parks"—but I didn't encounter any such complicating results; the nouns associated with both search phrases were consistently such words as interest, policy, security, defense, origin, and unity.)

share|improve this answer
A separate issue regarding "grounds" in the sense of "basis" involves the question of whether "ground" (singular) or "grounds" (plural) is preferable. See "on the grounds that" for the relevant discussion. – Sven Yargs Mar 30 '15 at 19:59

Your Answer


By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.