Is "the" required in the following context?

What did cause this problem? The suspects are A and B.

We are talking about suspects for the first time, so it doesn't need "the". But, as "suspects" are known in the author's mind, should we use "the" for it?

  • One would say either "What caused this problem?" or "What did cause the problem?", never "What did cause this problem?" which is ungrammatical. And, yes, you do need the definite article in front of suspects. – ohwilleke Jan 31 '17 at 6:55
  • @ohwilleke “What did cause this problem?” is not ungrammatical; it just doesn't fit this context. It's emphatic, and there's no indication that any emphasis is required here. – Janus Bahs Jacquet Apr 1 '17 at 9:22

I think you should put it there. Because you are talking about a specific thing not a general idea. It doesn't matter whether you use it for the first time or not. Consider:

I couldn't live without music. (We are talking generally)
The film wasn't good, but I liked the music. (We are talking specifically)

And also things in author's mind would be revealed by asking questions.

  • So leaving out the article 'the' makes the sentence sound abrupt. – Yosef Baskin Jan 31 '17 at 20:34

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