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Use of articles in the English Language is always confusing to me. I know some general rules regarding the use of articles, but I am having trouble applying them.

My question is: should I use an article before introducing a list in a sentence?

Experience allows people to acquire knowledge based on the observation rather than [the] theory, intuition, or innate idea.

I am not sure if "the" is needed here.

My guess is that "the" is not needed because I am not referring to a specific theory or idea. However, "observation" is preceded by "the", does it mean that "the" is also needed before "theory"?

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up vote 2 down vote accepted

Your sense of using the is correct, it is not a specific theory, intuition, or innate idea.

Acquiring knowledge is based many different observations, so in the same way as theory

Experience allows people to acquire knowledge based on observation rather than theory, intuition, or innate idea.

Experience allows people to acquire knowledge based on observations rather than theories, intuition, or innate ideas.

the plurals can also be used for countables

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Thank you, Peter. – Guan Summy Huang Feb 15 at 2:53

I would not use articles before general principles (observations, theories, intuition, or ideas). This statement discusses the topic in general, not a specific topic. So:

Experience allows people to acquire knowledge based on observation rather than (on) theory, intuition, or innate idea.

"observation" does not need an article in this example.

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Thank you. Now I think I've gained a better understanding of when to use articles – Guan Summy Huang Feb 15 at 2:55

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