As a non-native speaker, I am so confused about the usage of "the". I recently submitted an academic journal paper, and one reviewer is particularly critical about the usage of "the". Here is an example: (there are many more in the paper):

"We also consider the strong attenuation caused by the heavy rainfall in the Tropics."

The reviewer insist that: I should drop "the" ahead of "heavy rainfall". so It reads like this:

We also consider the strong attenuation caused by heavy rainfall in the Tropics.

Any suggestion is highly appreciated.

  • It depends on context and intent. Have a look at my answer to a more general question about articles, citing Peter Masters for a helpful ordering of articles. – Lawrence Mar 12 '18 at 15:56
  • Discussion of this question, with help for non-native speakers, may be better found at ell.stackexchange.com – GEdgar Mar 12 '18 at 17:54
  • Mike, there are two hugely different point there. “(the) heavy rainfall” is first dependent on stylistic choice and then on context. Either way, it’s very unlikely your reviewer was right to try to change it. There are tiny nuances of difference and in that example they matter only if vital context is missing. "Mike kzc" suggests a Central European origin, putting you in the huge batch of non-native speakers with no reason to understand why English insists on articles… which hardly seems relevant here. In your situation I’d ask the reviewer to explain in great detail. – Robbie Goodwin Mar 27 '18 at 19:39

The reviewer need not have gone wild but use of "the" can get overdone. I can't wait to hear the actual rule that will be pointed out shortly but in practice "the" can add to the verbosity (excess wordiness) of a sentence.

Consider if you had used "strong attenuation caused by the occurrence of heavy rainfall..." The meaning is the same but cluttered. I try to use "the" to refer to specific instances of a thing. That holds down the word count which is what your reviewer may be trying to do.

  • +1 for mentioning word count. Academic writing should be as long as in needs to be and as short as possible. The reviewer has possibly read one too many definite articles... – Pam Mar 12 '18 at 19:29

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