The most important assets are people vs are the people

Could you help, please

  • I was considering flagging as a duplicate @AndrewLeach, but "the people" has an idiomatic meaning that hasn't to my knowledge been covered by a previous question so I felt it warranted an answer on that basis given the example used. – John Clifford Mar 10 '16 at 13:33
  • @JohnClifford That's why I delayed marking as a duplicate. – Andrew Leach Mar 10 '16 at 13:41

As with most things you apply the definite article to, the difference is specificity. If you say

The most important assets are people

You're just saying that what's important is people in general, but no specific group or subset of them.

The most important assets are the people

Would be referring to the population of a particular place (as per the idiom). It could also be referring to a specific subset of people already referred to, but this is unlikely as usually if we refer to a specific group of people we give them a more specific name, like "the workers", "the French", "the employees" etc.

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