There's a rule that says articles can be omitted when nouns referring to two contrasting people or things are joined by 'and'.

The independent allowances for husband and wife will both be available.

...the natural relationship between father and son.

In a formal sense, the main difference between teacher and student is the amount of education.

...as the distinctions between employer and employee are gradually eroded.

...with little gardens between river and road.

There was a pause, and doctor and patient looked steadily at each other across the quiet room.

Does the same principle apply to nouns that by default have the definite article? If so, are the sentences below correct? Why is the definite article in sentence 3 omitted in the phrase "whereas for past tense"? Shouldn't it be "the past tense"? Is the definite article in "past tense" omitted because there's also an element of contrast?

  1. The relation between the sexes has always found its cosmic expression in the relation between moon and sun. (I'm talking about the earth's moon and sun)

  2. Even as the French king was hatching plans to destroy and annihilate a nascent coexistence between English language and English national identity, the supremacy of French culture was preserved by the language in which late medieval England conducted its official business. (Can the definite article in "English language" be omitted?)

  3. For English, Huddleston and Pullum (2002: 143) point out that the difference between present perfect and past tense is that in the present perfect the primary focus is on the present moment, whereas for past tense it is on the past.

  • Sun and moon may be different because there's only one. Yet, the sentence I just wrote without articles seems fine, so I guess you can leave off the article. To me what sounds more odd is saying moon first. Sep 7, 2016 at 22:28

1 Answer 1


Actually, all nouns are 'by default' definite unless they are given an indefinite determiner. That is why we can omit definite articles in front of names, titles, and crowded nouns (on signs, such as '[the] door' in: "keep door shut").

  • I didn't mean to imply that you can drop the 'the' anytime, but the default really is definite. This also applies to personal destinations, like 'home', 'school', 'church' and 'town'.
    – AmI
    Sep 7, 2016 at 22:34

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