Suppose you are talking about cars, and are asked what car manufacturer's vehicle you like, which sentence is correct or sounds more natural?

  1. I like Ford Explorers, because they are well-equipped.

    (the plural form of a proper noun)

  2. I like Ford Explorer, because they are well-equipped.

    (a proper noun w/o any articles)

  3. I like the Ford Explorer, because it is well-equipped.

    (a proper noun with a definite article)

Here, I'm talking about cars in general, and not about some specific cars in front of me.

I know I must use a plural noun after the verb "like" in a sentence as "I like poodles." for example. But I'm not sure whether I could say just as the same when it comes to a specific model name of industrial products like cars or smartphones.

I'd very much appreciate it if you could help me with this question.

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    Thank you for a very useful information, Clare. It's quite interesting for me to read the difference between the three types of generic nouns. Now I understand it is the construction that really means, not the articles; but how about generic nouns coming to the object position? As I wrote in my reply to Lars, I found lots of examples of "I like the-products model-" sentences, which confuse me very much. I'd be very much grateful if you tell me your opinion. Thank you. Oct 14, 2017 at 0:55
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    The generic noun phrases can be in either subject or object position. So you can say I like the leopard. It's my favorite animal. Here the leopard is a generic noun phrase. Same with I like the Ford Explorer. Oct 14, 2017 at 1:39
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    Thank you again, Clare. Your comments help me organize the concept of articles in my mind. It was a bit of surprise that I can say "I like the leopard," meaning just the same as "I like leopards" in some context. What I learned at school was that I had to use plural nouns in the object position and avoid using a noun with a generic definite article there. But now I understand it's possible. Here is another question. Is there any difference between the two sentences? Which do you think is more natural to say? Oct 15, 2017 at 7:24
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    The difference between I like the leopard (generic noun phrase) and I like leopards (generic noun phrase) is explained in the article I first linked you to: www-personal.umich.edu/~jlawler/000001.html It's somewhat technical. Buy it's all explained there. Oct 15, 2017 at 14:19

1 Answer 1


Sentences 1 and 3 are correct, sentence 2 is not possible.

When talking about things in general, we usually use a plural or uncountable noun with no article. We would not usually say 'I like the poodle'- it is potentially confusing as this usage would usually mean something that is known / identified.

We often use 'the' + singular noun if the item we are talking about is, for example, an invention or a musical instrument.

It is also possible to generalise using 'a' / 'an' with a singular countable noun. Example: An elephant needs lots of food.

Michael Swan's 'Practical English Usage' has more details and examples.

  • Thank you for your response, Lars. I totally agree that when I mention general nouns like dogs or cats, I have to use the plural forms to make a sentence "I like cats" and cannot say "I like the cat." But how about products' names such as Toyota Carolla, Samsung Galaxy, or Asus Nexus7? I am asking this question because I found more examples of "I like the Ford Explorer" than "I like Ford Explorers" on the Internet. This result comfused me because my understanding about the articles was just what you told me. It would be a great help if you could share your opinions about this. Oct 14, 2017 at 0:46
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    Not an easy area to clarify because the rules are partly grammar based, partly about usage. A distinguished linguist once told me that our rules are surprisingly practical in that they are based on how we actually perceive or see things. When thinking about cats and Ford Explorers (for example), this seems to work. We don't usually visualize a particular cat when speaking of cats in general (hence, the plural seems natural). With certain objects, though, we do tend to visualize the object, often because we imagine ourselves owning it. Hope this makes sense!
    – user261030
    Oct 14, 2017 at 4:41
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    Having said that, there is nothing wrong with 'I like Ford Explorers' nor with 'The giraffe is the tallest animal in the world' (a little more formal, might be heard in a documentary) but you would have to be careful about the context in which you used the latter in order to avoid confusion.
    – user261030
    Oct 14, 2017 at 4:43
  • Thank you again for your comments, which help me sort out my thought on articles. Having read all the comments I received so far, I guess the reason why people use a definite article in the "I like 'the product name'" sentence is because they are talking about the prototype of the product they are mentioning and want to emphasize that what they like is THE Ford Explorer, not THE Toyota Corolla. (The definite article has the meaning of emphasizing distinction from other kinds in the same category, right?) Oct 15, 2017 at 7:28
  • Before asking this question here, I wasn't fully sure whether I could say like that. But I've become more confident with the usage of articles thanks to your detailed and understandable comments. We Japanese have no articles in our language so that they are very difficult for us to use correctly. But learning such things is really fun, because through doing this, we can also see cultural difference behind languages. Thanks anyway for your kind help. I really really appreciate it!! Oct 15, 2017 at 7:28

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