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As the title indicates, I'm wondering if the phrase "in the guard" is correct. In this case, "guard" refers to a military group.

I am editing a novel which includes the sentence,

He thought of all his friends in the guard who had lost their lives.

It sounds correct to me, but I'm having some doubts. To compare with a real-life example, I believe that "serving in the King's Guard" would be right, but does the phrasing work with a generic "guard"? Or does it only work when the military group has a specified name and is therefore a proper noun?

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  • Does "He is in the guard" have the same (alleged) problem? If so, you might want to use that as your example, since it's much simpler.
    – alphabet
    Commented Aug 10, 2023 at 20:59
  • It is his thought (indirectly), and it is a form of characterization for it to be said in that manner. A US Marine might say "in the corps". Compare Marine Rifleman: Forty-Three Years in the Corps, the title of an actual book.
    – TimR
    Commented Aug 10, 2023 at 21:17
  • Have you tried searching the phrase "in the guard"? I expect that a search in Google Books, for example, would shed some light on how often that phrase is used in published works. Commented Aug 10, 2023 at 22:30
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    IMHO this is fine if the context already establishes what "the guard" refers to. If not, you might want to replace it with something like "in his platoon" (replace "platoon" with the appropriate term for the military unit).
    – Barmar
    Commented Aug 10, 2023 at 22:52
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    If it's clear from the context which guard is referred it sure is good. Otherwise it may also be good as it's a novel and reader of a novel don't expect everything to be fully clear from the beginning.
    – jake n
    Commented Aug 11, 2023 at 20:28

2 Answers 2

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As Barmar commented:

IMHO this is fine if the context already establishes what "the guard" refers to. If not, you might want to replace it with something like "in his platoon" (replace "platoon" with the appropriate term for the military unit).

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  • Or "the regiment".
    – Greybeard
    Commented Aug 22, 2023 at 20:35
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I suggest this would be better addressed somewhere like SE Writing but even there the sense of 'He thought of all his friends in the guard…' depends on whether 'the guard' is a generic term. It might be, but not necessarily.

I Post this lengthy treatise to prove that the Question depends on style choice - which doesn't belong in ELU - by touching on different, wholly justifiable approaches that share no conclusion even in the real world, before fiction gets its fangs into them.

If the term is clearly meant as an abbreviation for 'the King's Guard' then your 'Guard' might deserve that capital 'G' but that would depend at least as much on your society's military system as the English language.

There are French and German, Russian and other equivalents and my own experience is in the UK where 'the Guards' always and only refers not to one but a group of regiments… two of horse, five of foot and then it gets very complicated because although most of us think they are, the horsemen aren't really Guards.

Rather, the foot regiments form The Guards Division, and they are joined by The Household Cavalry to form The Household Division.

Five ordinary and one reserve infantry regiments belong to the Guards Division: the Grenadier Guards, Coldstream Guards, Scots Guards, Irish Guards and Welsh Guards.

Collectively or generally, they are usually referred to as The Guards but individually or particularly, normally by the first part of their regimental names, eg as ’The Grenadiers’ or ’The Coldstreams'.

Within the Division, the 'national' regiments are prolly referred to as 'The Scots, The Irish or The Welsh'.

Outsiders can use those abbreviations without fear of confusion not by dint of language but only because in modern times, the British Army has lost so many units with elements such as Irish, Scots/Scottish, Wales/Welsh in their titles.

In US America not only 'the Guard' but even 'National Guard' reads like an abbreviation for either Air or Army National Guard, though they do seem to exist collectively.

If that is not confusing enough there are, or have recently been British Army units with designations such as Dragoon Guards, King’s or Queen’s and even Royal Dragoon Guards, whose titles are historical but descend through quite separate traditions.

Worse, huge numbers of readers are doubtless thinking of the ‘Kingsguard’ in Game of Thrones, which gives them a whole new set of rules to play by.

If 'the King's Guard' is the only unit in your jurisdiction, then 'the Guard' could be a legitimate abbreviation; otherwise, it would not.

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