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Which sentence is correct? are we meeting before the class or are we meeting before class

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  • Neither is incorrect, though it might be more natural to leave out 'the'. Mar 6, 2018 at 8:53
  • ... Perversely, "Are we meeting before the lesson?" needs the definite article. Mar 6, 2018 at 10:12
  • One lesson is apparently specific. But those educated with private tutors do things before lessons. (I googled princess "before lessons").
    – KarlG
    Mar 6, 2018 at 10:35

1 Answer 1

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When a noun is used without an article, linguists often call it a zero article or zero determiner.

This occurs, among other reasons, for many events or places that are part of a regular routine, thus requiring no specificity.

She wanted to run some errands before dinner.

But

She wanted to run some errands before the dinner.

In the first sentence, dinner is a routine event occurring so regularly — and for most English speakers roughly at the same time, except for those who call it tea or supper— that it's often used as a time reference. In the second, a specific event is implied, such as a formal dinner at a hotel or a dinner party at her own home, i.e., a specific, not routine, event.

Your question most likely falls into this category. If a native speaker asks another

Do you want to meet before class?

the time reference is common to both speakers' routines and need not be further specified.

If instead, a native speaker asks:

Do you want to meet before the class?

the other may ask, "Which class?" unless the other already knows what specific class, say, a master class conducted by a famous musician, is meant.

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  • I disagree. I'd class this as a null article, not zero article, usage. A corresponding example is 'He tends bar.' Mar 6, 2018 at 10:51
  • So you're one of those linguists who don't often call it zero article, but I linked to a reputable source that does. Argue with them, not me. Whether zero or null, the main point is that the article isn't there.
    – KarlG
    Mar 6, 2018 at 11:01
  • No. OP asks 'Where to use "the" ', not just 'Should I use "the" here?' and is asking for general guidance, which requires analysis where possible. The linked thread provides this. Mar 6, 2018 at 11:18
  • Asking which of two choices requires only enough general guidance to determine in which situations the OP would say before class vs. before the class.
    – KarlG
    Mar 6, 2018 at 13:31

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