Possible Duplicate:
Incriminating others vs. Incriminating the others: Is this sentence correct?

When should one of these be preferred over another for sentences of the form "A is different than (others | the others)"?

For ex. what is the difference between -

All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.


All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than the others.

  • @FumbleFingers yups. Should I delete it? – user13107 Oct 19 '12 at 21:15
  • If you like. But I personally wouldn't vote to delete if the question gets closed as a dup. Someone in future might find your question (and through it, the link to that "original"). I don't know if you might lose rep points by letting the Q stand long enough to be closed, or whether that would affect your decision. – FumbleFingers Oct 19 '12 at 21:19
  • @FumbleFinger; probably yes, but repetita juvant the Latin said. And had we alrady closed this question, we would have lost the excellent Schiffhauer's answer, which is better of Barrie's ansewer, at least for some aspects. An invitation: let us think different on these things. – user19148 Oct 19 '12 at 21:21
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    user13107, you cannot delete your question because the system inpedes this function to you. However this is an excellent question. Congratulations. – user19148 Oct 19 '12 at 21:25
  • @Carlo_R.: No disrespect to Chris Schiffhauer's answer here, which certainly isn't "wrong", but I personally think Barrie's answer is "better". You'll note that OP here is still uncertain about whether "specified" means in the current sentence (it doesn't, of course). Having said that, neither answer makes the point that in many contexts it's entirely a matter of stylistic choice whether to include the article or not. – FumbleFingers Oct 19 '12 at 21:33

In this particular case, I can't see any difference in meaning between the two example sentences; they both mean, essentially:

All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than other animals.

No significant meaning is added by including the article the, and no meaning is lost by omitting it.

There are other instances, however, where adding a "the" serves to restrict the language to an implied subset, such as the sentences found in the question linked as a possible duplicate:

He was careful not to say anything that might incriminate others.

He was careful not to say anything that might incriminate the others.

In that case, I think there is a subtle shift in meaning after the article is added.

We could modify the example sentence in this question, and make it to where the the is significant:

Here at the zoo, all animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than the others.

In this case, the the reinforces the idea that we are talking about other animals at the zoo, and not other animals in general.

I'd be hard-pressed to come up with a simple rule that expresses when the restrictive article absolutely needs to be in the sentence, when it should be removed, and when it doesn't matter. It's all in the context, I think – one simply needs to evaluate the sentence to figure out if the meaning changes with the article's inclusion or exclusion.

  • Excellent answer J.R., +1; we should dispel a myth of the 'the' rules. You are doing a great work on this road. Congratulations. – user19148 Oct 20 '12 at 9:11
  • I disagree. Logical usage requires a definite article before animals if there is going to be one before others: Here at the zoo, all the animals are equal, but some of the animals are more equal than the others. – Edwin Ashworth Oct 20 '12 at 11:06

"The others" is used when the compared items are specified. If you have three apples, the reddest is redder than "the others".

"Others" is used when the compared items are unspecified. If you have an exceptionally red apple, it is redder than "others".

  • So if one is writing just a single statement, one shouldn't use the right? – user13107 Oct 19 '12 at 21:17
  • @user13107, your comment/answer does not make sense: language is not an abstract thingh. The reality is the context at all, single or not single statement. – user19148 Oct 19 '12 at 21:34
  • @Carlo_R. I'm not following. Are you saying that context is always present? For ex., I wrote the statement in my question on the classroom blackboard. There may not be any context involved that would specify whether other animals were specified previously. – user13107 Oct 19 '12 at 22:02
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    @user13107; yes, you have perfectly followed, instead! The fact is that English language (I'm not native, however!) does not have a rule for your 'the' problem. Context is everything in this case; and it would be a bit asinine if someone say you that you are wrong in writing or not writing the 'the', without a specified context. In my language, for example, is different: we have a fixed rule independent from the context. – user19148 Oct 19 '12 at 22:15
  • Is this use of the definite article anything specific to the sentence, and any different from its generic behavior? – Kris Oct 20 '12 at 3:56

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