In the following sentence: "I am against animal cruelty." Why don't we say the animal cruelty since technically it is a specific type of cruelty - "animal" cruelty.


3 Answers 3


Use the to indicate a known or stated subclass of a general class.

If you write "I am against animal cruelty", you are opposing animal cruelty in general.

"I am against the animal cruelty" would mean you are objecting to animal cruelty in some particular case.

Perhaps someone asked you about bull-fighting or eating hamburgers; you might reply "I am against the animal cruelty" -- meaning you might accept that the activity had some other, more positive aspect, or you believe the cruelty could be mitigated.

If you said flatly, "I am against animal cruelty", you would be implying that no other aspect mattered and that bull-fighting or carnivory was unacceptable.


"Animal" here is the adjective and "cruelty" is the noun. It's equivalent to saying "I like hairy dogs" or "I hate classical music".

You wouldn't say "I like the hairy dogs" unless you were looking at a specific set of dogs and saying that you like dog B and dog F because they are hairy. By saying "I like hairy dogs" you are stating the general case, and it's the same with "I am against animal cruelty".


I am confused because for an example

The human body's five vital organs are the heart, brain, kidneys, liver, and lungs.

It would be very awkward sounding to not add the "the". But if you apply the grammar rules, since the organ names are common nouns and they don't specify certain organs, they should have indefinite articles.

The human body's five vital organs are a heart, a brain, kidneys, a liver, and lungs.

I tried to think that since the "vital organ" have been mentioned within the sentence, "the" should be included but if I think of another sentence this rationale doesn't apply.

The two main ingredients that I need are water, an apple, and flours.

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