I am sure this question has been asked somewhere else before, but I don't know what terms I would need to search to find it.

A Native Russian speaking friend, who is learning English asked me a question.

Did you have to manually put all the files in place??

And he asked me after that "In my previous sentence would it be better to use just 'files', without the article?"

I told him No, and I didn't know why but it SOUNDS wrong to me to remove the the. Which would have made it

Did you have to manually put all files in place??

Does anyone know why it "sounds wrong" or what I am talking about would be called?

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  • Use of the definite article there suggests that you're talking about a specific set of files. Dropping it opens the scope to include all files within the domain. – Robusto Dec 14 '18 at 14:31
  • "All [noun]" without an article usually has a universal interpretaion. – Colin Fine Dec 14 '18 at 15:58

You are correct in that it is wrong.

The definite article is used to determine a specific set of item/s that are already known or are common knowledge.

Did you have to manually put all the files in place?? is talking about those files that you know about (common knowledge).

Leaving out the definite article, as in Did you have to manually put all files in place?? introduces ambiguity and confusion, as it is talking universally with no specificness whatsoever.

'the' certainly works here, though sometimes I'd go for those.


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