I am not sure which one sounds better or grammatically correct.

  1. National parks are parks that are run and managed by the federal government.

  2. National parks are the parks that are run and managed by the federal government.

This type of confusions occurs to me quite often.

Can they both be right? If not, what is wrong with the incorrect sentence? Please clarify.

  • At a glance, #1 defines "national parks", whereas #2 identifies the parks that are "national".
    – Lawrence
    Jun 7, 2017 at 2:07
  • @Lawrence can you please elaborate a little more? I still find no difference :( Thank you!
    – MAT
    Jun 7, 2017 at 2:12
  • Both are correct, as Lawrence says.
    – Hot Licks
    Jun 7, 2017 at 2:44
  • Both are correct, but there is a difference in emphasis. In the first, the emphasis is on the variety of parks. This sentence might occur in an article on kinds of parks: local, state, national. In the second sentence the emphasis is on the definition of "national parks." This would occur in an article on "national parks" in particular. So the second sentence might be the topic sentence in an essay on national parks. It is unlikely that the first sentence would be used as the first sentence in an essay strictly about "national parks." The second sentence would be a logical opening sentence.
    – Zan700
    Jun 7, 2017 at 3:22
  • @TaeHwanLee In #1, the sentence is read normally - this is the unmarked version (you just read it and move on). In #2, the word national is stressed more heavily. Since the is not really needed in the sentence for grammatical correctness, its presence tends to prompt a second reading to see it was inserted. By the parallel terms "national parks" vs "the parks", it is the word national that is emphasised.
    – Lawrence
    Jun 7, 2017 at 22:53

1 Answer 1


The first sentence

National parks are parks that are run and managed by the Federal government.

is your safest bet, at least in the United States, because National Parks (notice the capital letters) are not necessarily the only "parks" run and managed by the (United States) Federal government.

Use a definite article before a noun or noun phrase that already uniquely identifies what it is referring to. With a common noun, you usually introduce the thing with an indefinite article, then use a definite article later:

I visited a park in Millbury today. I don't remember the park's name.

But you can use "the" for a specific, well-known thing

I went to the park today (that is, the park we always go to)

or a proper noun that might be confused with a common noun

The Federal Government (if I'm in Australia, I'm talking about what goes on in Canberra)

The key difference here is that the designation "National Park" means something specific about an area in the nomenclature of the National Park system (which you can read about here if you want to spend the time).

But "park" is a common noun, and doesn't even have to mean a "park" facility maintained run by a government. For example, South Park and its siblings in Colorado are just geographic regions.

In some other countries where the system is set up differently, you might correctly use the second sentence, (adding another definite article at the beginning):

The National Parks are the parks that are run and managed by the Federal government.

or, select parks with "those":

National Parks are those parks that are run and managed by the federal government.

However, the first sentence, without any extra articles, is always correct because it claims less.


Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.