Why wouldn't you say "tell truth", and it always comes with "the" truth?

You ask someone just to tell truth generally, not something specific. Simply be honest is the main point. Why still need "the"?

  • 1
    Because ideally there is only one "truth" in any given situation.
    – user3169
    Commented Sep 1, 2016 at 20:32
  • I'm not sure that there is an answer beyond "because truth is a count noun in English" and "you can only tell a count noun".
    – stangdon
    Commented Sep 1, 2016 at 20:34
  • Think about the difference between the truth and truth. Good question @JoeKim +1 Commented Sep 1, 2016 at 22:10

2 Answers 2


It is a binary ternary choice:

(x) relevant truth ( ) non-truth ( ) irrelevant truth

[Radio-buttons, not checkboxes]

When making a choice, we use "the":

I can offer you an apple, an orange, or a pear.
--I'll have the pear, thanks.

The refers to the choice-in-context, the selected item of a set of options.

Come on, tell me the truth (not the non-truth).

+1 to @user3169

  • Shouldn't the choices be (x) THE Truth and () non-truth (fallacy)? A truth = a fact that is true, such as, "The moon is grey and dusty," The truth = a truth, as opposed to a fallacy.
    – EllieK
    Commented Oct 3, 2016 at 19:44
  • 1
    "The truth = a truth" In "Tell the truth", the truth is not only a truth; it must be a relevant truth. "Tell me the truth, where were you last night?" -- The moon is dusty. That reply, about the moon, though a truth, is not the truth. So we need to edit the radio button :) It's ternary, not binary.
    – TimR
    Commented Oct 3, 2016 at 21:06

No, because it is not always easy to tell truth from fiction. (← See what I did there? You wouldn't say "the fiction", would you?)

  • 1
    Very clever! I would only point out that this usage of tell, in its sense as "distinguish", is slightly different from tell meaning "relate".
    – stangdon
    Commented Sep 1, 2016 at 22:06
  • 1
    @stangdon Clever aye, but with expansion it might benefit many more subsequent questioners... hint hint... Commented Sep 1, 2016 at 22:10
  • @200_success, thank you but you are talking to another your culture person. In my culture it is no problem to say it. So I don't understand your distingushion and according to all the rules about "the", I don't what it is about.
    – Joe Kim
    Commented Sep 2, 2016 at 2:34

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