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When there is no WI-Fi or internet connection, people usually say

I don't have internet.

However, I heard someone saying

I don't have the internet.

which sounds funny to me. I would assume both are correct, but is the former more natural than the latter?

  • You say both, but they mean entirely different things. – RegDwigнt Sep 1 '13 at 21:24
  • Perhaps if you delved a little more into why you "need" an answer, more folks would be persuaded to cast a reopen vote. In other words, why does the latter "sound funny" to you? Did you do any research to see if both are in use? What did you find? Many newer users jot down a quick question with scant details; after they elaborate, it becomes more clear what the question is all about and why it would be of interest to the community. – J.R. Sep 2 '13 at 3:18
  • There is just one "internet" (was "Internet") -- no definite article is needed. – Kris Sep 2 '13 at 6:33
  • @Kris: Doesn't that depend on context? I think I'd be more inclined to say "I'm having problems with the internet today" than "I'm having problems with internet today." – J.R. Sep 2 '13 at 10:25
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    Being a bit old-fashioned, I tend to avoid both usages that you quote and just say "I don't have internet access". To me, this version sounds the most concise. My kids tend to use the first one though, leading to constructions like "Dad, my internet is broken". Of course, this leads to the (ahem) hilarious response along the lines of "Wow! That's amazing - you have your own Internet? Well done!" etc. etc. – tinyd Sep 2 '13 at 16:12
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I don’t have the Internet

– means that you do not possess the entire Internet. This is of course true, because nobody does. But it does not mean that you do not currently have access to the Internet.

Instead, you should say:

I don’t have internet / I don’t have any internet

‘Internet’ here is being used not so much as a specific term (as in ‘the Internet’), but rather as a non-count generic noun meaning ‘access to the Internet’. This is also why you can add ‘any’ before it, which would sound very strange if you were talking about the World Wide Web as a thing, since there is only one.

More commonly, and more idiomatically, you can say:

I don’t have access to the Internet
I can’t access the Internet
I can’t connect to the Internet
I have no connection (to the Internet)
etc.

(In this answer, I denote the difference between the actual World Wide Web and the access to it by capitalising the former and not capitalising the latter. This tends to be my own usage, but I am not actually aware of any style guides that make this distinction—I believe most of them would simply advocate either capitalised ‘Internet’ or non-capitalised ‘internet’.)

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    I don't agree that "I don't have the Internet" means you don't possess it. If someone told me, "I don't have the Internet at my summer cottage," I'd assume they meant "I don't have internet access at my summer cottage," or, "I don't have an internet connection at my summer cottage," not that the Internet isn't stashed in their attic somewhere. Perhaps you don't use that wording, but others have no problem with it. – J.R. Sep 2 '13 at 11:31
  • Technically, the Internet is an internet. Due to common usage, the generic term is now often employed to denote both. Furthermore, from the wiki link: "As Internet connectivity has expanded, it has started to be seen as a service similar to television, radio, and telephone, and the word has come to be used in this way (e.g. "I have the internet at home" and "I found it on the internet")." – iterums Sep 3 '13 at 9:03
  • However, when people say "I don't have the Internet", I tend to think of this. – iterums Sep 3 '13 at 9:11
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In your case, "I don't have internet" is grammatically correct, whereas "the Internet" is referring to the entire internet, which is something you cannot possess.

  • -1. That is quite incorrect. That is specifically not the meaning mentioned in the question. – Janus Bahs Jacquet Sep 2 '13 at 7:43
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Both are used. Just earlier this month, a blogger wrote:

It’s easy to fall into the habit of saying that ‘everyone has the internet’ when what we all really mean when we say that is ‘everyone I know has the internet’. In actual fact two-thirds of people around the world don’t have the internet. Two very ambitious projects are underway to try to change that.

The word internet has entered the vernacular relatively recently, and people are still sifting out how to best use it. There was a time when it was treated like a proper noun (always capitalized, much like this columnist – or his publishing editor – seems to prefer); it now gets casually tossed around as a qualifier (as in, "We won't have internet access tomorrow.")

I don't think the dust has settled enough to say that one way is right and another is wrong, although there may be certain circles of people who favor one wording over another.

A Google search for "I don't have internet" returns roughly 15,000,000 hits. Add the word the to the search – "I don't have the internet" – and the number drops to about 4,000,000. That's significantly less, but not so few that I'd declare the wording "funny", or even "less natural."

I continue to see "internet" and "Internet", used both with and without the the. I don't think any of the permutations have fallen out of favor so much that I'd consider any of them "wrong," even if it's not written in the same way I would write it.

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I hear it both ways. I think it really comes down to whether the speaker thinks of the internet as a publication (compare with "I don't get the newspaper") or a utility ("I don't have electricity.") Technical people will say "internet access" but I don't think most people will.

Usage will probably eventually settle on one of the two, but I don't believe it has done so yet.

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