Which of the following two sentences is correct?

1) We abstract resource demand of tasks.

2) We abstract the resource demand of tasks.

This is the first time the phrase "resource demand" occurs in a paragraph. So I feel the first one is better. But I'm not sure.


  • Have you done Google searches for "abstract resource demand" and "abstract the resource demand" to see which is more commonly used? (I confess, I'd never encountered either.) – Edwin Ashworth Mar 16 '18 at 22:13
  • I did and didn't find either. This is more like a technical term, which is not frequently used in daily life. So I don't know if the Google search approach really works. – Mike Mar 17 '18 at 4:50
  • Strange. I found 3740 hits for "abstract the resource demand" (admittedly I didn't analyse the raw figure) but only one relevant one for "abstract resource demand" (ignoring the reference to this question, 'abstract' as a verb and use of the string as a compound premodifier). And the one hit looked like headlinese. – Edwin Ashworth Mar 17 '18 at 9:56
  • @EdwinAshworth mere raw Google hit counts don't explain why a definite article is needed here. – Spencer Mar 17 '18 at 10:38
  • @Spencer Usage drives grammaticality. The BBC WS treatment (or an equivalent) in the answer given below (though it could be worded better) has been seen on ELU before now. Where the uncommon string 'resource demand' fits into the scheme of things is the distinctive issue here. Though "we estimated the demand for" has more hits on the internet, "we estimated demand for" has a reasonable number of hits. You really have to have finely-tuned rules and subrules to explain this. With novel strings, usage is usually safer than trying to guess which 'rules' apply / take precedence. – Edwin Ashworth Mar 17 '18 at 11:14

Use of the definite article, some specific cases on when to use and when to omit

A brief recapitulation directly quoted from the answer to a similar question on the BBC World Service:

Cases in which to use the definite article:

"a) before singular and plural nouns when you are talking about things that both speakers know about."

"b) with certain geographical locations or areas, collections of states or islands, mountain ranges, seas and rivers - if you are not sure where any of the following places are, check them out in an atlas:"

"c) with groups of people, and with musical and scientific instruments and animals when you are discussing them as categories:"

Cases in which to use the definite article:

"d) when making general statements about things, people and abstract ideas. In the following examples, a general statement (= - the) is contrasted with a specific reference (= + the):"

"e) when talking about particular countries, continents, towns, streets, buildings, lakes and mountains: China, Pakistan, America, England, (Great) Britain, South America, Central America."

"f) when talking about transport, meals, games in general terms and with certain time expressions, months, seasons, etc."

Addressing the use of the phrasal verb in your specific question

Note that in your sentences, abstract is used as a verb. In your sentence you are using the expression to abstract of, this seems wrong to me (it seems to be used primarily in a scientific context where abstract is used as a noun, for example here: correction to abstract of ).

In your case, you want to use the phrasal verb to abstract something from, this has two different meanings according to OLD:

1) abstract something from: Consider something theoretically or separately from (something else)

example for 1): ‘applications to abstract more water from streams’

2) abstract something from: Extract or remove (something)

example for 2): ‘to abstract science and religion from their historical context can lead to anachronism’

Answering your question

Now that we have established the use of the phrasal verb to abstract [something] from [something else], we can address the use of the definitie article.

Referring to specific tasks (e.g. you defined tasks in a previous sentence or paragraph)

If the reader is aware of the object, i.e. which task you are referring to, use the definite article (because of rule a) ), so you would get:

We abstract the resource demand from tasks.

Making a general statement

In case the reader is not aware of the specific tasks, or when making a general statement (e.g. resource demand abstraction is your day job) we omit the definite article (because of rule d) ), like this:

We abstract resource demand from tasks.

  • 2
    No; (a) must be read 'before singular and plural nouns when you are talking about examples where the hearer will clearly identify the referent'. Not 'is familiar with the concept'. So 'The dog bit me' when it is clear to the listener which dog is involved, but 'A dog bit me' when it isn't, though one would expect the hearer to understand 'dog'. – Edwin Ashworth Mar 17 '18 at 10:14
  • Couldn't it be a general statement though? Example sentence: I correct spelling in students' homework, by you reasoning that should become I correct the spelling in students' homework, perhaps even the students, because it's only those students which are associated to me, whose homework I correct? – JJ for Transparency and Monica Mar 17 '18 at 15:18
  • No; you're misunderstanding. You'd use 'I correct spelling in the students' homework' if the group is already reasonably well or well specified (after say 'I work at ABC Academy' or 'I work with middle-school students' or 'I work with the ten students taking A-Level English at ABC Academy'. But after 'My spelling is excellent' you'd use 'I correct spelling in students' homework.' Whether or not to use 'the' before 'spelling' is a style choice. It gives the impression that your checking is exhaustive. – Edwin Ashworth Mar 17 '18 at 15:56
  • @EdwinAshworth that's what I was arguing, there was another comment here previously which said only the version with the is correct. You comment was helpful, it showed both can be correct depending on context. – JJ for Transparency and Monica Mar 17 '18 at 16:07

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