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Is there a way one can determine whether to use the definite article before an abstract noun? For example:

  • little room for imagination
  • such concepts as subjectivity and imagination

  • the power of the imagination.

Why is there no article in the first two examples? I'm aware that 'the' points to a specific instance, and it is clear to me why one would say

the imagination of the author or a reticent imagination.

However, in all the three examples that confuse me imagination is used in a general sense, and yet it takes the definite article in the 3rd instance.

marked as duplicate by Hot Licks, user140086, Brian Hooper, ab2, Hellion Jan 27 '16 at 20:11

This question has been asked before and already has an answer. If those answers do not fully address your question, please ask a new question.


The definite article serves to specify a particular instance. It is used to mark an object as before mentioned or already known, or contextually particularised (OED).

Abstract nouns are not, by definition, particular to a time or place.

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