In this sentence, In the pursuit of my computer science degree at WUSTL, I have mastered.... Should there be a the in front of pursuit?
In other words, should the sentence be changed to In pursuit of my computer science degree at WUSTL, I have mastered....

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    It's fine either way. Whichever you choose would be grammatical. – Jason Bassford Dec 27 '18 at 20:12
  • interesting, do they have different connotations? @JasonBassford – SeedofWInd Dec 27 '18 at 20:50
  • Maybe. When I hear the use of the article, I apply an unstated while to the phrase. In other words, I think that you mastered something as a direct result of the pursuit. But without the article, it could be something you simply mastered at the same time, without any direct correlation. But that's only my own impression. There's nothing about the grammar itself that implies that—and other people may well not interpret it that way at all. – Jason Bassford Dec 27 '18 at 23:15

First, let's take the example without the article (in pursuit of). It works, but just saying that it works with or without the article doesn't get at why it works without the article. Let me compare its lack of article with a similar word that lacks an article:


In pursuit of my computer science degree at WUSTL, I have mastered....


In process of my computer science degree at WUSTL, I have mastered....

In pursuit of is an idiomatic phrase meaning "in order to achieve [an item]" (Merriam-Webster). Similar formations (like in process of or in hunt of/for) are not valid, even if their version with the article would be valid. That's one sign that it is an idiom.

An N-gram search shows that "in pursuit of is more common than in the pursuit of or in pursuing, and the Corpus of Contemporary American English has 1442 entries for in pursuit of compared to 467 for in the pursuit of. The sampling illustrates how widespread the idiomatic usage is compared to the version with an article. An idiom will tend to be more common than a similar expression formed organically.

In the first example, the article the emphasizes how pursuit is known. The pursuit would be a pursuit that is already known or understood by writer and reader. From here, the rest of the phrase is constructed through common grammatical rules: something is being pursued (the pursuit of), and you are explaining what you received in that pursuit (in the pursuit of). So the primary difference between the two is how they're constructed: it's not that in pursuit of omits an article, but that the phrase is an idiom whereas in the pursuit of is a common construction.

If from your context it is clear what you have pursued (i.e., what is "the pursuit"?), which one you choose is a matter of taste.

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You would not use the indefinite article "a" in this context. The definite article "the" is correct because its your personal pursuit and your pursuit is known to you. You could also omit the article "the" as demonstrated in your second example.

If your pursuit in uncertain then the indefinite article "a" is appropriate. For example in this case it is uncertain the kind of degree (Butachlor, Masters or PhD), "In my pursuit of a degree, I'm mastering computer science"

You could turn it around too, "In pursuit of my computer science degree, I'm mastering a knowledge", although it would sound quirky and/or baiting a listener in conversation. IN this case, it is uncertain about the specifics of computer science. Are you mastering web application development, database administration, hardware networking or something different in the industry.

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