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(the) Security forces helped us fight (the) terrorists.

If I wanted to refer all security forces in a specific country would I need to use a definite article? Same with "the terrorists", I want to make clear that the security forces are fighting not all terrorists but a few groups of terrorists; would I have to use the definite article then?

The question this is supposed to be a duplicate of talks about generic noun phrases. This means things that do not actually exist in the world (you can't feed or take a photo of a generic lion, for instance). I am talking about noun phrases (security forces, terrorists) that actually exist and fight and die in a specific country. We can feed and and photograph them. They are "real," not generic.

  • This question has nothing to do with generic statements. All security forces in a specific country is talking about actual, existential (security forces that exist) not about generic security forces (security forces in theory). – Alan Carmack Oct 22 '16 at 4:23
  • The Security forces helped us fight the terrorists can imply that one group of security forces helped fight one group of terrorists, that several groups of security forces helped fight several groups of terrorists, or any combination of those meanings. If you wanted to clarify, you'd have to use quantifiers like "all", "some", "several", "one", etc. "All the Security forces in the USA helped us fight several terrorist groups." – G-Cam Oct 24 '16 at 16:45
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If you are writing about a certain subset of actual security forces, for example, the ones who are in the area, and the context makes clear which subset you are talking about, then yes, I would use the.

The Security forces helped us fight the terrorists means a certain subset of actual security forces and a certain subset of terrorists. Which subset of each must be clear from the context.

Security forces helped us fight the terrorists means some subset of actual security forces and a certain subset of terrorists. This would be usage I expect, as this sentence is introducing the security forces to the reader but presumably already mentioned a definite group of actual terrorists.

The security forces helped us fight terrorists means a certain subset of actual security forces and some unspecified actual terrorists. I'm having trouble thinking of a reasonable scenario that you might want to write this.

Security forces helped us fight terrorists sounds like there is a general fight with some actual security forces against whatever actual terrorists happen to be there.

Security helped us fight terrorists speaks of generic security personnel fighting against whatever actual terrorists happen to be there.

Security helped us fight terror speaks of generic security personnel fighting generic terror-inducing forces, presumably in an ongoing context.

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The definite article is not used to designate whether 'all' of a group is being talked about. For that designation, use 'all the security forces'. If you do not wish to stipulate that all were involved, don't use 'all'.

All the security forces (of XYZ Country) helped us fight the terrorists.

The terrorists does not mean 'all the terrorists of XYZ country' any more than I went to Austria and took a photo of the mountains refers to 'all the mountains of Austria'.

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