Unit 70. Plural and uncountable nouns with and without the (flowers/the flowers)
We don’t use the
before a noun when we mean something in general
I love flowers, (not the flowers)
(flowers = flowers in general, not a particular group of flowers)
I’m afraid of dogs.
Doctors are paid more than teachers.
Crime is a problem in most big cities, (not the crime)
Life has changed a lot since I was young, (not the life)
I prefer classical music to pop music, (not the classical/pop music)
Do you like Chinese food / American television? (not the .. .)
My favorite subject at school was history/physics/English.
I like soccer/athletics/skiing/chess.
Do you collect stamps?
We say most people / most dogs, etc. (not the most. ..):
Most people like George, (not the most people – see also Unit 78)
I like your garden. The flowers are beautiful, (not Flowers are …) (the flowers = the flowers in your garden, not flowers in general)
Children learn a lot from playing. (= children in general)
We say the… when we mean something in particular:
but: We took the children to the zoo. (= a particular group of children, perhaps the speaker’s own children)
Salt is used to flavor food.
but: Can you pass the salt, please? (= the salt on the table)
I often listen to music.
but: The movie wasn’t very good, but I liked the music. (= the music in the movie)
All cars have wheels.
but: All the students in the class like their teacher.
Are American people friendly? (= American people in general)
but: Are the American people you know friendly? (= only the American people you know, not American people in general)
I like working with people. (= people in general)
I like working with people who are lively, (not all people, but people who are lively is still a general idea)
The difference between “something in general” and “something in particular” is not always very clear. Study these sentences:
but: I like the people I work with. (= a particular group of people)
Do you like coffee? (= coffee in general)
Do you like strong black coffee? (not all coffee, but strong black coffee is still a general idea) but: Did you like the coffee we had after dinner? (= particular coffee)