I saw the following sentence in OALD:

He was forced to relinquish control of the company.

Despite having studied English for years and having consulted some advanced grammar books, when writing in English, in some cases I don't still know if the definite article 'the' should be used or not. For instance, I'm not sure if it's grammatical to write

He was forced to relinquish the control of the/that company.

But it doesn't sound incorrect to me.

Which one sounds more natural/correct to native English speakers? Which one is preferred by grammarians?

  • 1
    "relinquish control" seems more natural to me.
    – J. Taylor
    Dec 2, 2018 at 11:19

1 Answer 1


Many abstract nouns can be used, and commonly are, without an article, even when they refer to specific instances.

In the iWeb corpus, "relinquish control" outranks "relinquish the control" by 1143 instances to 16. Furthermore, several of the latter are "relinquish the control that ... ", which is a construction which takes "the" even for proper names (eg "the Liverpool that I grew up in")

Similarly for "gain control", "lose control"; and "gain ownership", "gain insight", "gain influence", and many more.

"Relinquish the control" is grammatical, but little used unless it is specific not just by being over a particular thing, but even further specified, typically with a "that" clause (eg "relinquish the control over the company that he had inherited").


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