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Is the correct phrasing "to have a tendency to <do something>" or is it "to have the tendency to <do something>" ?

An example of a sentence I want to use the phrase in is: You have a/the tendency to underestimate the effect that future events have on your opinions.

Google Ngram Viewer suggests that the answer is "to have a tendency to <do something>". But I think that the answer might depend on the context.

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    Why complicate things? Instead of worrying about whether people have a/the tendency to do something, just say they tend to do it. But I can't think of any particular reason to use the definite article in such contexts unless said tendency is already known to the audience (as a tendency which occurs in other people, and/or at other times in history, for example). – FumbleFingers Reinstate Monica Oct 28 '16 at 13:18
  • It's really confusing we usually say "to have a tendency to do something", but when talk about ability, we say "to have the ability to do something". – Khan Oct 28 '16 at 15:02
  • As written, I would use "a" because people have many tendencies; you are writing about only one of them. – user3169 Oct 28 '16 at 15:42
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Normally, "a tendency" is the most natural. But, if you think the tendency you describe is a special phenomenon that you want to imply the listener might already be aware of, using "the" might convey that. Or they might just think you're being a tad unidiomatic. Really, though, it doesn't sound that bad even if they don't pick up the nuance you're aiming for.

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