What's the difference between the two following sentences and which one is grammatical? Should I use the definite article in the second sentence?

  1. I love people who make me laugh.
  2. I love the people who make me laugh.

Please note that I am talking about people in general and I have no specific people in my mind.

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    Including the article more strongly implies that there's a specific identifiable class of people who make the speaker laugh, and he knows who they are - even though his audience probably wouldn't be able to identify those people themselves, so they're not really a "known" group as would be relevant in structurally similar contexts where the article might or might not be included. Apart from that, idiomatically, OP's second version would be relatively uncommon compared to the first one. May 2, 2018 at 13:49
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    ...compare 389 hits in Google Books for I hate people who do that with just 4 instances of I hate the people who do that (one of which is obviously from a nns, and another appears to be a grammar text advising against using the article). May 2, 2018 at 13:54
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    In practice, most native speakers would probably say both your examples have "the same" meaning - it's just that the second is far less common. But comparing, say I know people who hate you to I know the people who hate you, nearly everyone would agree that the first version implies the addressee doesn't know who those people are (and might well not even have been aware that any such people exist), whereas the second version is only appropriate when both conversants know perfectly well that those haters exist (but possibly the addressee doesn't know who they are). May 2, 2018 at 14:26
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    @FumbleFingers I agree with everything you said but those low instances of "I hate people who do that" does not in fact reflect the reality of that usage. One hears that everywhere and all the time. It's the same as; "I love ballet dancers who do the movement like that." that way versus "I love the ballet dancers [in the Bolshoi] who do the movement like that.". As you rightly point out, the the refers to fact the speakers are referring to a specific case. For me, this is a general principle. Why not put in an answer?
    – Lambie
    May 2, 2018 at 14:49

2 Answers 2


The last line of yours changed my answer.

So, if you are talking about people in general, put no article.

Things (animate or inanimate) in general take zero article. And, that's how it is!

I love people who make me laugh.

Anyway, you are defining people by telling that you like those who make you laugh.

When in dilemma, take another example and decide!

I love cars over I love the cars.

Good read is her (BBC)


If you are talking about people in general, than use no article. If you would like to mention specific people (from your class, family etc.), than use the definite article.

  • This is a repeat of the May 2 answer. Please don't do that, upvote that answer if you agree.
    – user22427
    Jun 10, 2018 at 9:26

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