I'm confused around the sentences:

  1. What are differences between...
  2. What are the differences between...

For example:
What are differences between a circle and a sphere?
What are the differences between a circle and a sphere?

I know, that we use article a to speak about single countable noun, and also single countable noun mentioned for the first time, or speak about something single and countable in general. With plurals the article is omitted, as in the first excerpt.

From the other hand, we use article 'the' with countable and uncountable nouns when we'd like to speak about something specific.

So,IMHO both of these excerpts are correct, but I always faced only the second one, and the first one almost never. I found out the question, but it is slightly different.

1 Answer 1


The only meaning I can ascribe to "What are differences" is a very general question (that I can't imagine anybody asking), something like "What does the word 'difference' mean?" or "What do people mean when they talk about 'differences'?"

I cannot think of any case where it would be used of a specific situation.

  • Thank you for the answer, but I suppose my question wasn't completely clear for you. I've added some additional information. Commented Oct 3, 2017 at 9:46
  • 1
    "What are differences between a circle and a sphere" is not something I would ever expect a native English speaker to say, under any circumstances. If I did hear it, I guess I would interpret it as "What are some differences between a circle and a sphere", that is, "List me some of the differences ... " But it's borderline ungrammatical.
    – Colin Fine
    Commented Oct 3, 2017 at 12:30

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .