I've been practicing TOEFL for a while and found that "the" with a noun can represent a kind of thing, like the dog. Of course, just the plural form of a noun can also represent a kind of thing, like dogs. So I'm wondering if there is any difference between them? For example, in TPO18:

A good example of this is something an animal called the American pronghorn does.

Pronghorns, as you may know, are a kind of deer-like animal.

Once a pronghorn starts running, none of its predators, like the bobcat or coyote, can even hope to catch up with it.

My first question is there any difference between them? The second question is, as a foreigner who just wants something fixed and convenient, can I say "the xxx" every time when I refer to a kind of thing? Of course, I'm fully aware that sentences like "I like apples" are idiomatic. But it gets tricky for me to use plurals or "the XXX" in some complex sentences like the above.

  • 1
    The [name of species] is mainly used when referring to some 'scientific' characteristic of that animal or plant. The horse is a quadruped. The baobab tree is native to Africa. In your passage, it is used for identifying the three species mentioned. We use the plural in a more 'everyday' context. I like apples. Mary is afraid of dogs. Jul 11, 2022 at 7:25
  • 3
    Does this answer your question? A query about the use of Generic Reference with nationalities (see John Lawler's answer). Jul 11, 2022 at 7:38
  • More information is available in the link from that answer. This is a specialty of mine, as it happens. Jul 11, 2022 at 13:02


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