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How can the same noun take/miss a "the" in the following sentences.

(A) The Food and Drug Administration intends to authorize emergency use of the vaccine on Friday.

(B) The country is expected to authorize the emergency use of the vaccine.

(C) Two runoff elections in Georgia will determine control of the Senate.

(D) The Georgia Republican is facing a runoff election that could determine the control of the Senate.

(E) Production of renewable diesel is up 7 percent this year.

(F) Energy companies are increasing the production of renewable diesel.

I wonder how to use or omit the definite article "the" in these instances. Is any semantic difference produced by using the definite article?

At first glance, I have a vague idea that (B) and (C) are more appropriate than (A) and (D), respectively; although, I cannot explain why.

I believe that "the" should be omitted in (E), as it is actually, while I am unsure about the reasoning behind the use of "the" in front of the noun "production" in (F).

All of the sentences are from a major U.S. newspaper, so they are, apparently, grammatical. Yet, I suspect some subtle difference in meaning.

Explain the logic behind the use of "the."

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  • Do these sentences come successively in the same text or article? Commented Dec 26, 2020 at 11:24
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    (1) This seems to be a repeat submission. There was a request for clarification in the previous thread (Are these headlines?, for a start). (2) Headlinese, and Master's work re-examining the most definite of articles, the null (Ø2), were cited as probably relevant. Why do people omit the definite article? is certainly a duplicate-in-name. Commented Dec 26, 2020 at 11:33
  • @RockPaperLz- Mask it or Casket In response to your comment at the now-deleted original. Yes, the availability of different polysemes always complicates analyses of article usage. (As does the fixedness of phrases, often idioms: why 'weigh anchor' rather than 'weigh the anchor'? Why 'lose the use of ...' but 'take control of ...'?) But here, 'Thanks for lunch' is certainly far more idiomatic (see G ngrams) than 'Thanks for the lunch', and 'Thanks for a lunch' is ridiculous. It's certainly definite rather than indefinite, so the missing article is the null (Ø2) and not the zero article (Ø1). Commented Dec 26, 2020 at 12:15
  • The link attached seems to be actually a question about ellipsis and not about the definite article.
    – user48754
    Commented Dec 27, 2020 at 1:33

2 Answers 2

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The zero-marking used by newspapers in such contexts as yours or in any formal written texts does not fit any entry in the rules given by ordinary grammars. In Wikipedia I found this entry that is not really related to your contexts, but might give us a hint to why the "zero-article" was used in some of your sentences:

The zero article is also used in instructions and manuals. In such cases, the references in the text are all definite, and thus no distinction between definite and indefinite has to be made.

I would concentrate on the sentence no distinction between definite and indefinite has to be made. It is true, sometimes the issue discussed by a newspaper article is so widely known, that no distinction between definite and indefinite is necessary.

However, it is clear from your sentences, that the omission of the article has not occurred because of that necessarily. I believe this is more a matter of style in writing: newspapers are known to drop articles especially in their headlines for more impact.

See for example

Cabinet backs PM over no-deal Brexit and Iceberg threat to seals and penguins from the BBC news

or

Facebook's advertising integrity chief leaves company and Romney urges sweeping vaccine plan... from Reuters.US

I will not quote such occurrences in the body of the articles, since you have provided plenty yourself. While researching for this answer, I came across another EL&U answer that coincides with my intuition. Omission of the article definitely make the sentences sound more formal, almost axiomatic, if I may say so.

If you look at (B), (C) and (E), you will see that they do sound more like headlines, as if claiming more authority for the information they provide. Where the article is used, the sentence is intended to be more neutral so that the reader's attention be not distracted by that particular piece of information, but look at the global meaning that transpires from a whole paragraph let's say.

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The Food and Drug Administration intends to authorize emergency use of the vaccine on Friday.

= The FDA intends to authorize, in respect of the vaccine, {emergency use} on Friday.

Here “use” is used as an uncountable noun, e.g. “This door is for emergency use only.” Interestingly. “emergency use” is taken as an uncountable noun phrase.

The country is expected to authorize the emergency use of the vaccine.

The country is expected to authorize that particular use – as defined by “emergency” - of the vaccine.

Students rarely realise that the and a/an and its plural form, zero article (i) have a meaning, or (ii) give a nuance to their nouns. To this extent, the and a/an act adjectivally.

The is demonstrative and related to “that”. It implies that its noun is already known to the listener or is defined or specified in the clause/phrase such that the listener is aware of the specific referent.

“The moon is bright” – everyone is aware of the moon

“The cat in the tree is black” that cat is defined/specified by “in the tree”

“The cat that I saw yesterday is black” that cat is defined/specified by “I saw yesterday”.

[Points at several cats only one of which is black] “The black cat is ill.” that cat is defined/specified by indication.

A/an is quantative and weakly demonstrative. A noun approximates to one random example [taken from many examples] of that type of noun.

The plural of a/an is zero article. Zero article noun approximates to an indefinite number of random examples [taken from many examples] of that type of nouns.

In addition to the above, and except in a very few specific contexts, all singular countable nouns will require a determiner*;

“There is a/the/my/ cat.”

*”There is cat.”

Plural nouns do not accept “a/an” but may accept zero article to the same effect as “a/an”.

“There are cats. Cats like mice”

Weak uncountable nouns** do not accept “a/an” unless they are modified by an adjectival that has the effect of specifying a group within the generality of the uncountable noun.

Sadness fell upon those in the room.

A great sadness fell upon the room.

Two great sadnesses afflicted him, that of his mother’s death, and that from increasing deafness.

Strong uncountable nouns** do not accept “a/an”

*A weather destroyed the house.

*A strong weather destroyed the house.

*A weather from the south destroyed the house.

*I use the term in its broadest sense.

** a strong uncountable noun can only be used as uncountable; a weak uncountable noun may be used countably.

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