I am writing a research paper and English is my second language. I am fully confused with the usage of a/an/the in the noun phrases with the structure (noun of noun).

for example, consider this sentence:

we try to explicitly describe geometry of image edges.

what is correct form at the end of the sentence ?

1- geometry of image edges

2- the geometry of image edges

3- the geometry of the image edges

4- geometry of the image edges

Can you give me the link to a tutorial or article on the internet that explains exact grammatical rules on this subject ?

Thanks in advance



My answer (from introspection as a native speaker of British English, not from a reference):

The inner noun phrase can be definite or indefinite: of image edges and of the image edges are both grammatical, and have somewhat different meanings: the use of the implies that you are talking about some particular edges (or edges of particular images), and that the reader will in some sense know which edges or images you are talking about. Omitting the means you are talking about image edges in general.

If you make the inner noun phrase definite, the outer one has to be definite as well: geometry of the image edges sounds very odd.

The outer noun phrase is most likely to be definite (the geometry), but it can be indefinite (as long as the inner one is indefinite), with a slight difference in meaning: to me geometry of image edges is referring to geometry as a field of study, while the geometry of image edges sounds like a problem or its answer (which might be expressed in a diagram, or a table of numbers, for example). But the difference is subtle.

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  • Thanks for your comprehensive answer. The images and the class of their edges are described in my text, so they are definite. The geometry also refers to the known structural features and characteristics of the image edges. So, in the context of my research paper, the correct form would be the structure of the image edges – vahid keiani Feb 28 '15 at 11:46

It must be either 2 or 3, as you need the "the" before "geometry".

Depending on what you mean by "image edges", you can write it in the following ways:

  1. We try to explicitly describe the geometry of image edges. (recommended)
  2. We try to explicitly describe the geometry of images' edges.
  3. We try to explicitly describe the geometry of the edges of the images.
  4. We try to explicitly describe the geometry of the edges of the image.
  5. We try to explicitly describe the geometry of image's edge.

Note that the start of your sentence is a little faulty and sounds awkward.

For more information, consider reading this guide.

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