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Suburbs increasingly 'hotter' housing markets than urban areas, within this article the word "suburbs" is used 8 times, 6 times with the, and 2 times without the.

  • But as more of them have started families, the suburbs are looking a bit more attractive these days.
  • Nationwide, population growth in suburbs exceeded urban population growth in 33 of 50 metros.
  • Realtor.com says the suburbs on its list are among the top 8% when it comes to the hottest real estate Zip Codes in the country.

When do we use the with "suburbs" word and when we don't?

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  • I believe this is purely stylistic and personal preference. In the examples you cite, you can include or omit the article and the sentences will remain grammatical either way.
    – J.R.
    Feb 23 '17 at 11:27
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    @J.R., I think the distinction is whether each reference is to specific suburbs or suburbs in general. 1st bullet uses it stylistically in that way, sort of a subliminal suggestion to think of specific suburbs you're familiar with.
    – fixer1234
    Feb 23 '17 at 18:59
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    @fixer - I'd be surprised to learn that the authors used the "specific-suburbs-or-suburbs-in-general" litmus test to decide whether or not to include an article.
    – J.R.
    Feb 23 '17 at 20:25
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    @J.R., that could well be true, but they aren't mutually exclusive. The usage in the examples is consistent with the rule but that doesn't mean the author consciously made a determination. Usage is second nature based on rules learned much earlier.
    – fixer1234
    Feb 23 '17 at 20:34
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This is not about the word suburbs as much as it is about the context that they had been used in.

1) But as more of them have started families, the suburbs (as opposed to other sorts of neighborhoods such as urban areas) are looking a bit more attractive these days.

"The" is used to emphasize the difference between the suburbs and other neighborhoods.

2) Nationwide, population growth in (the) suburbs exceeded urban population growth in 33 of 50 metros.

"The" could be inserted or omitted here. It's a stylistic choice.

3) Realtor.com says the suburbs on its list (versus the ones not on its list) are among the top 8% when it comes to the hottest real estate Zip Codes in the country.

This is similar to the first example in that it's meant to highlight, specify and contrast the suburbs "on its list" with the suburbs "not on its list."

But since some of these quotes come from for-profit organizations, I would be wary of the "the"s and remind you that sometimes, it may be a stylistic choice to include "the" because they want to market something to you.

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    Good answer and I generally agree but slightly different take. Agree 1st bullet, "the" emphasizes a distinction/comparison; it suggests reference to specific (but unidentified) neighborhoods. 2nd bullet, adding "the" would be grammatically correct but would change the nuance. It's about the "concept of" suburbs rather than trying to conjure images of specific suburbs. Agree 3rd bullet is about specific suburbs (ones on the list).
    – fixer1234
    Feb 23 '17 at 18:53
  • Thanks, @fixer1234. I upvoted your comment to keep it alive :). Feb 24 '17 at 9:28

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