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I was wondering which of the following is the proper sentence:

The woman swims among turtles,

or

The woman swims among the turtles.

Or are they both valid under different contexts?

The above is from a duolingo.com exercise to translate a Spanish sentence. So, unfortunately, there is no context i.e., the sentence is not part of a paragraph. The Spanish sentence is "La mujer nada entre las tortugas".

In the exercise I gave my translation as "The woman swims among the turtles", because the Spanish sentence had the article "las", which is the plural form of "the". This was marked incorrect, and the correct answer was given as "The woman swims among turtles".

In duolingo.com, translations sometimes preserve the article, and sometimes it is not preserved.

I was wondering if there was any difference between the two, in English. If I understand this I may be able to better understand Spanish.

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Not enough context, and the title doesn't match the body. Please clarify. –  RegDwigнt Jun 26 '12 at 12:56
1  
"Among" implies a group. You can't be "among" one turtle. So the real choices are "among turtles" and "among the turtles". Usually you would use "the". If you are talkinga about some specific group of turtles -- the turtles of Foobar Island or whatever -- then you must use "the". If you want to express the idea that she swims with turtles in general but not necessarily some specific group, you could say "swims among turtles". –  Jay Jun 26 '12 at 14:09
    
Sorry. In the first sentence I meant turtles and not turtle. –  phn Jun 26 '12 at 15:42
    
@RegDwightΒВB Yes it is vague and appears broad, because there was no context accompanying the sentence. I have added more explanation in the question; hope it is better now. –  phn Jun 26 '12 at 15:45
    
This is really a Spanish question, and not an English question. If Spanish is like French in this respect, both translations are valid, depending on context. –  Peter Shor Jun 26 '12 at 15:52

2 Answers 2

The main difference here is the definite or indefinite article.

The woman swims among turtles,

In this case, the absence of article is considered as the indefinite article in the plural form. It means that the turtles can be any turtles, not a specific group of turtles. You could also use (with a slightly different meaning) some turtles.

The woman swims among the turtles.

Now the definite article is used, meaning that the mentioned turtles aren't any turtles, they are "these" specific turtles.

As you were mentioning Spanish in your question, the first sentence would be about unas tortugas (or algunas tortugas for some turtles) whereas the second is about las tortugas.

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Among: occurring in or shared by (some members of a group or community)

  • A drop in tooth decay among children.
  • Members of the government bickered among themselves.

With among, you use plural. Hence,

The woman swims among the turtles.

is correct.

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2  
This is wrong. "swims among the turtles" and "swims among turtles" are both possible sentences in English, and they mean slightly different things. It is impossible to tell which translation is better without knowing the meaning of the Spanish (since I don't know Spanish, this won't help). –  Peter Shor Jun 26 '12 at 15:49
    
@rudra provided the answer because I had typed in "turtle" instead of "turtles". It was my fault! –  phn Jun 26 '12 at 15:54
    
@PeterShor Please have a look at this link. The OP has edited his question very recently (12 min ago). So, do I deserve a down-vote? –  user20934 Jun 26 '12 at 15:55
    
I see. You addressed the question in the body of the question, which had a typo, and not in the title. I didn't notice they were different when I downvoted you. –  Peter Shor Jun 26 '12 at 16:01
    
@PeterShor I was wondering which of the following is the proper sentence: The woman swims among turtle, or The woman swims among the turtles. Or are they both valid under different contexts? Thanks. This is what the question was to which I gave my answer (link given above). –  user20934 Jun 26 '12 at 16:03

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