Is it correcr to put "the" in the following sentence.

{The} deprivation of water leads to serious health problems.

I came across a sentence where it had been used without "the". Here is the sentence:

  • "Poverty is characterised by severe deprivation of education, food, water..."

I am so confused by the use of "the" before mass nouns and the word "of" because sometimes "the" is redundant and sometimes necessary. I have asked similar questions and some said it is a matter of style. But can anyone tell me how can I feel when to use "the" in such cases and when not?

1 Answer 1


"Deprivation", as an abstract noun, would not ordinarily take an article, but "deprivation of X", as a concrete example, ordinarily would take an article.

Theirs is a harsh existence characterized by extreme deprivation

Theirs is a harsh existence characterized by the extreme deprivation of basic necessities.

Since the article is not necessary for the abstract noun, stylistically it feels ok to omit it with a concrete example.

Theirs is a harsh existence characterized by extreme deprivation of basic necessities.

Personally, I don't like it. I think there should be something there, like "the" or "an". But I think you can almost always get away with leaving it out, even if it doesn't always sound good to every reader.

She was blessed with (a) lightness of spirit, and (a) joy of friendship.

The best way to understand these style choices is to read a lot of English writing, particularly creative writing, and to try writing your own.

  • I always tgought when saying " x of (the) y", the reason why we need the definit article is that we make the y specific. Hence, we need that "the" before x. Am I wrong?
    – Cardinal
    Jan 18, 2018 at 7:45
  • @Cardinal You can use "the" if you want it to be even more specific, "She was blessed with the lightness of spirit common to members of her family." It's a good general rule to use the definite article in such cases, but not in every case. There may be some overarching principle, so it might be good to ask this as a separate question.
    – Andrew
    Jan 18, 2018 at 16:14

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