I'm a translator and not a native speaker of English and have some troubles understanding definite articles.

Any feedback for my problem would be of great help for me.

What is the rule for document names and proper nouns? I need to translate the following sentence into English: "Documents that increase Inventory and stock list amount are as follows..." Now, 'Inventory and stock list' is a proper noun in this case, it is a caption in our software, but in this context I refer to amount, why I don't need the definite article there? What will modify that noun? Would it be incorrect to say: "Documents that increase the Inventory and stock list amount are as follows..."

I need a grammatical explanation for this. 'It sounds good but I don't know why' rule is driving me crazy.

  • The Inventory and stock list amount can be increased by the following documents: ... - would be my preference, with or without the The since I would scan for the title and not for the word documents
    – mplungjan
    Commented Jun 19, 2013 at 9:14
  • Thanks! But why? 'The' refers to amount? Hm.. Ok. :) Still confused, but thanks anyway!
    – Mihail
    Commented Jun 19, 2013 at 9:25
  • As your example is rather technical, I'm not sure what 'Inventory and stock list amount' means exactly. However, 'Inventory and stock list' is being used as a compound modifier of amount, like 'association football results' or 'duck-egg-blue dress'. Modifiers of nouns do not remove the requirement for a relevant article: the association football results; a duck-egg-blue dress. See Trevor's answer for where to use the dfinite article. Commented Jun 19, 2013 at 10:37

1 Answer 1


While I wouldn't dare to say that this is a 'rule', I would say that the definite article the is generally used before mass / uncountable nouns when you are referring to a specific instance of that noun.

In your example, you are referring to the Inventory and stock list amount, rather than, say, the purchase amount, or the sales amount, or the amount of your salary.

Similarly, you might say:

The twenty people on the course - as distinct from people in general (no article), or the millions of people not on the course.
The hospital staff - as distinct from The university staff
The river water - as distinct from water in general (no article), or from The lake water.

  • Thanks so much. So the first comment says I can 'use or omit' the definite article and your comment says I can use 'the'. What is the grammatical rule? Thanks so much for taking the tome to answer, I appreciate it a lot.
    – Mihail
    Commented Jun 19, 2013 at 10:43
  • I'm afraid I can't give you a 'rule' - amongst other reasons, English does not have official 'rules'! But I would say that (1) I disagree with @mplungjan that the may be omitted; (2) I'm not saying you can use the, I'm saying you should use the; and (3) Edwin's comment suggests that he also thinks the or a should be included.
    – TrevorD
    Commented Jun 19, 2013 at 11:47

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