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I asked a friend of mine who lives in France, who isn't so good at speaking the English language, if she has a favorite animal and she answered with:

Yes I like the cats.

I told her that you don't say "the" in this sentence but I don't know why; I just know that it its wrong. Can anyone help me explain why this is so?

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Because "the" means that you're articulating definite cats, referring to specific cats and not cats in general. Saying "the" in that sentence isn't ungrammatical, but it's wrong in this case because it makes the sentence mean something different than what's intended.

I'd say "Yes, I like the cats" if I'm answering a question asking if I like the cats in the house or like the cats of the person asking or like specific cats that have been mentioned or that are present, but if I'm answering a question like the one you've given requiring me to blanketly refer to cats overall, then I do that by leaving out "the" and saying "Yes, I like cats."

  • In Romance languages they will use definite articles when speaking of some category in general. ¿Pueden los perros sonreír? Les chiens peuvent-ils sourire? – Spencer Sep 21 '19 at 20:49

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