English Language Learners Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for speakers of other languages learning English. It's 100% free, no registration required.

Sign up
Here's how it works:
  1. Anybody can ask a question
  2. Anybody can answer
  3. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top

From the BBC article "Bravery of France 'heart attack boy' is praised":

Police and the emergency services were able to find out where Kevin Djene's father lived from information the child provided.

Can we put in the definite article before "information"?

Police and the emergency services were able to find out where Kevin Djene's father lived from the information the child provided.

After all, the noun is postmodified by "the child provided", and from the context we already know what that information was about.

share|improve this question
Jean Francois Pinot told the BBC he saw the child in his pyjamas riding his cycle late at night on a rural road. I'm trying to figure out what the farmer was doing in the boy's pyjamas, and who's riding whose bike. I guess the French know, since they have a law about it. Seriously, though, the use of pronouns and referents in this article is slapdash, as is the title. – GoDucks Jan 11 at 1:18
To my mind, "from information" says to me "from some of the information", whereas "from the information", means from all of the information (more likely to be a single fact). That's how it occurs to me when reading it and not thinking too deeply about it (UK native speaker). – Mawg Jan 11 at 9:35
up vote 10 down vote accepted

Per this NGram, from information provided by is over twice as common as from the information provided by. Personally, I think that preference would be even stronger if I could generate a chart comparing from [the] information provided by the, because it's stylistically a bit ugly to include the first [optional] article when it's closely followed by another [probably, non-optional] article.

enter image description here

Note that information is a "non-count" noun. If we consider alternative phrasing with a countable noun such as statement, we're contrasting...

1a: He was identified using the information the boy gave
1b: He was identified using information the boy gave
2a: He was identified using the statement the boy gave
2b: He was identified using a statement the boy gave
2c: He was identified using statements the boy gave

Pedants might argue that 1b/2b imply she gave other information/statements that weren't used in the identification process (or that the information/statement refers to something previously mentioned), but in my opinion that's, well, pedantic. The plural usage in 2c is relatively uncommon simply because in the real world the boy probably didn't give multiple statements (even if he did, perhaps only one aided the identification).

In short, for OP's exact context there's no significant semantic aspect to the inclusion of the article. Idiomatically we tend not to in any case, but it's not a very strong preference, and any apparent "deviation from the norm" would be even less likely to be noticed if there weren't another article following...

3: He was identified using the information little Johnny gave

share|improve this answer
Thank you for the informative answer, FumbleFingers! I've taken the liberty of adding the screenshot to your post; I hope you don't mind. Google Chrome's "Lightshot" extension works like a charm. – CowperKettle Jan 10 at 17:40
@CopperKettle: Ta muchly! I've duly added "Lightshot" to my browser ready for next time! – FumbleFingers Jan 10 at 18:39

The original sentence is perfectly correct. You can, however, write it as "the information" without changing the meaning substantially. The choice to include 'the' or not is a question of style.

share|improve this answer
Sure, it's a question of style, but the use or non-use of the article do differ the meaning. – GoDucks Jan 11 at 0:24
@GoDucks In what way? – Kevin Jan 11 at 0:52
Well to answer your question @Kevin would basically require me to write an anwer to the original question asked on this page :) ...and that is something I am not sure I can do at this time. Basically, anytime you use a determinative in English you are adding some, uh, information to the meaning. Here the information differs from information because it refers to definite information rather than fuzzy-wuzzy indefinite information. I can't go further than that in a comment. – GoDucks Jan 11 at 1:06
Then post an answer? – Mawg Jan 11 at 9:36

If there is a quote of the child before the sentence in your question, i.e. "We live 1.8 miles away." or "Our house is 1.8 miles north from here" before the sentence in your question, the definite article should be used.

In the article, we can never know what exactly the child said to the police. We could only assume that it might have been related with the location of his/her house.

Police and the emergency services were able to find out where Kevin Djene's father lived from (some) information the child provided.

The child could have given a few pieces of information and that's all we can know for sure from the context. Therefore, the the is not required and we could determine that the determiner some is elided in the sentence.

If you contrast "Pass me (some) information that the suspect has provided." with "Pass me the information that the suspect has provided," it is clear that the use of the definite article is context-dependent.

share|improve this answer

"The information" in this case refers to the collective data given to the police from the witness, rather than information gathered as a whole. It's commonly used as we are speaking definitively about a specific segment of a uncountable noun.

For instance, data is a uncountable noun, but when reporting on scientific studies we would always refer to the data, as we refer solely to the data collected for the study.

share|improve this answer

Your Answer


By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.