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."

  • Do these sentences come successively in the same text or article? – Mido Mido Dec 26 '20 at 11:24
  • 3
    (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. – Edwin Ashworth Dec 26 '20 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). – Edwin Ashworth Dec 26 '20 at 12:15
  • The link attached seems to be actually a question about ellipsis and not about the definite article. – user48754 Dec 27 '20 at 1:33

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


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.


Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.