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I just had my first Composition 102 lecture and the professor said that when you refer to a disease you use "the" as in "the flu."

I don't argue with that example because you say "I have the flu," and not "I have the cold," but if that's true then why does nobody say "the cancer?"

Cancer is a disease, but I have never heard anyone say "the cancer," so is my professor wrong?

marked as duplicate by Davo, Laurel, Michael Harvey, jimm101, Chenmunka Feb 13 at 11:08

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  • Did your professor indicate that there were no exceptions to that rule? If so, he's wrong; if not, he's not wrong, but did not provide complete information. – Jeff Zeitlin Feb 12 at 17:52
  • See tchrist's magisterial answer in Is “flu” the only disease usually accompanied with “the”? One omission is the cholera, as in John Challice's Should the Cholera come, what ought to be done? – choster Feb 12 at 18:06
  • If it seems like an article in needed, you can use "a". There is no article needed for "cancer" because it is a term for a great many different diseases and is more of a descriptive term. The use of "the" and "a" with "flu" are both acceptable, but scientifically there are many different sicknesses referred to as flu (therefore "a" is more accurate). It is the common usage of the term "the flu" that makes it preferred by your professor. – user22542 Feb 12 at 19:17
  • It also depends on where you live. In the UK, it's common to hear I have flu, whereas in North America, it's I have the flu. – Jason Bassford Feb 13 at 2:36

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