I encountered many rules and even this article here on StackExchange. However, this is not about going to "college" or "the college", I think it more difficult.

I wrote:

"Bad recommendations that might occur when testing could decrease [the?] customers' trust in the quality of the system."

Is the use of "the" correct here? In my opinion, it is as follows:

  • I describe any bad recommendation; no "the"
  • I do not talk about a certain customer but about customers in general; no "the"
  • The system has only one state of quality, so it is "the" quality
  • There is only one system, so it is "the" system

I'd like to do this correctly as I write abstract and mathematic articles; often it is difficult to distinguish between a certain instance and the abstract concept of a word when the whole text is rather abstract.

4 Answers 4


I don't see a good reason to use the definite article if there is no prior reference (at least tangential) to these customers, and you do not mention any.


To me this is a judgement call - you can leave the 'the' in or not. It seems to flow a bit better to break up the two big words around it with the word there, so I would leave it in, and make customer singular.


It's a judgment call, I don't see potential for the meaning to be confused.

Unless there is a hypothetical customer already being talked about, opposed to general customer opinion, I would leave "the" out.

"...could decrease customer trust in the quality..." would work fine and is decidedly more general.


In regards to the use of the word "the" before customers':

The word customer I think is kind of an exception to the normal rules. While your thoughts to not use the word "the" before "customers'" would be correct if you were to replace the word "customer" with another word like "college", people will commonly use "the customer" or "the customers" to refer not to a specific customer, but a specific type of customer -- which could just be those customers they serve or target, which is really kind of the same thing as customers in general, from their point of view. In other words, since it's before the word "customers'" you could use or not the "the", and they would be both considered correct.

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