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In articles and textbooks about computer science, I often see the definite article used in the following ways.

In final testing, the program is tested at the end of its development process.

One advantage of compilers is that the program runs quickly once it has been compiled.

This use of the definite article is found elsewhere, too - for instance, in articles and textbooks about biology.

In IVF, the woman is first given hormone treatment.

My question is why the definite article is used in these instances. Unless I am mistaken, the definite article is used in noun phrases that refer to something that is able to be identified; in noun or adjectival phrases denoting an entire class of something (e.g. "The cat is a mammal", "The conversation meandered from the sublime to the ridiculous"); in certain names; or in certain idiomatic expressions (e.g. "He is listening to the radio").

Insofar as I can see, none of these uses fits the use of the definite article in the above sentences. The only use that here seems applicable to the above sentences is that for NPs denoting class, and even here it seems at best only loosely applicable: how is it possible for all programs - the entire set of programs - to run more quickly if only some programs are compiled, for instance?

Thank you.

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  • Nothing said that "all programs ... run more quickly if only some programs are compiled." The program in question will. Commented Mar 4, 2022 at 22:29
  • Read the earlier sentences. They should have been referring to a specific program.
    – Steve
    Commented Mar 4, 2022 at 23:28
  • The sentence about IVF refer to 'the woman' undergoing a particular course of treatment, not to women in general. Commented Mar 5, 2022 at 8:47
  • I don't think 'In final testing, the program is tested at the end of its development process.' is standalone; I'd guess that the program has been mentioned previously. One needs to give complete quotes. But post-specification etc is also common: 'The Duchess of Sutherland'; 'He had been shot from close quarters; the gun was never found.' Commented Mar 8, 2022 at 12:58

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In all these examples, "the X" is referring to a specific item related to the context establish: the program being tested, the program that was compiled, or the woman undergoing IVF.

However, you can often omit the article by referring to all the items related to the context as a collective:

In final testing, programs are tested at the end of the development process.

One advantage of compilers is that programs run quickly once they have been compiled.

In IVF, women are first given hormone treatment.

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