The morality of a person is not just a matter of the acts she does.

Is the sentence correct without the bold "the"?


Is the sentence correct without the bold "the?"

No. Without the definite article, "the," the sentence is not grammatically correct.

Your sentence begins with a definite concept: "the morality of a person." It's possible to shift from a definite subject to an indefinite predicate, but it requires using a transition.

... not just a matter of some of her acts.

Please note that transitioning from definite to indefinite is not for the faint of heart. It should be done sparingly.

Therefore, we'll stick with the basic concept that if your subject is definite, your predicate should be definite, too.

The morality of a person is not just a matter of the acts she does.

Final note for extra points: there are arguments over whether or not the word "that" should be used or not. For example, your sentence could be written, "The morality of a person is not just a matter of the acts that she does." That sentence actually sounds better to my ear. However, to pick a side and tell you that you should or shouldn't use "that" would likely start a fight.


Your questions about alternative subjects has made me wonder if my answer was entirely correct. The advice I offered is not wrong, but there's more to the issue.

There is no way to remove the "the" from "the acts she does." This is because, formally, the phrase should be written "the acts that she does" and since "she does" is modifying "acts" it requires the definite article.

The way to remove the definite article is to remove the conjugate clause and convert the phrase into a genitive form ("her acts"):

The morality of a person is not just a matter of her acts.

  • Please note that using the genitive form doesn't make the phrase partitive. It's still definite, it simply no longer needs the article "the." The reason for this is that morals are defined by all of the actions during a person's life, not just some of them. This will be an important issue in a moment.

While grammatically correct, a native would more likely say:

The morality of a person is not just a matter of her actions.

Your last comment query was about changing the subject to "personal morality." Part of our problem is that "morality" is a funny word in English. You can suggest that a person has "ambiguous morals" (which is an inherently partitive phrase), but "morality" is intrinsically definite. In other words, unless challenged, you either have them or you don't. In other words, "morality" is always definite as it is defined by the actions taken by a person either during a specified period of time or throughout their life. Therefore, you could have "poor morals" early in your life and "good morals" later in your life, but even taking the actions of your life as a whole, your morality is not ambiguous. Therefore, morality is never partitive and so the predicate cannot be partitive, either. (This is one of those gratefully rare instances when the meaning or philosophy behing a word strongly affects how the word is used.)

Which explains why my previous advice wasn't wrong, but wasn't complete.

  • What if we start with "a person's morality" or "personal morality". Do we still need the before act? – Sasan Mar 19 '18 at 15:26
  • Yes. You're still using the genitive form, whether the "the morality of a person" or the "A person's morality" form is used. In both cases, "morality" is definite, which requires the definite article before "act." – JBH Mar 19 '18 at 16:32
  • What about "Personal morality" ? – Sasan Mar 19 '18 at 19:24
  • You've revealed an issue that demanded a longer explanation than a comment will allow. Please see the edit to my answer. – JBH Mar 19 '18 at 20:55

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