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So I am informing my friend.

Water doesn't run at the car washing center.

Do I have to put "the" in front of water? The sentence implies that we both know what car washing center I'm talking about, so does the same apply to water?

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I think you should have the article "the" in this case.

The water doesn't run at the car washing center.

Or perhaps better:

The water isn't running at the car wash center.

I don't think it's technically wrong to omit the article, but ordinary written English would normally include the article.

There are a number of rules to follow when omitting articles. This page is a good summary of those rules:

https://www.englishgrammar.org/rules-omission-articles/

  • Thank you. But why is it that the version with "the" is more grammatically correct? – hiloo Aug 19 '17 at 0:41
  • @hiloo - Ringo never said it was "more grammatically correct". – J.R. Aug 19 '17 at 1:02
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Omitting the article is more useful for making a general statement about a mass noun.

Water is wet.
Water is the universal solvent.

When you use the definite article with it, you make a more specific statement:

The water doesn't run at the car wash.

Note that this could be better phrased by swapping some sentence elements:

The water at the car wash doesn't run.

The reason this works better is because "at the car wash" is properly part of the subject of the sentence. Putting the predicate in the middle splits the subject and its modifier and confuses the issue.

  • I think the order of the phrasing all depends on the context. – Ringo Aug 19 '17 at 1:31
  • For example, if you wanted to emphasize the absurdity of a car wash that doesn't even have running water, I think it's better to put at the car wash at the end. – Ringo Aug 19 '17 at 1:33

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