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Is the usage of 'the' correct in the sentences below?

The taco was spicier than the American one.

The sushi was less expensive than the Japanese one.

I was asked by my friend why are we using 'the' here when we are comparing it with general tacos or sushis. I'm unable to explain it. We both are non-native English speakers.

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    the doesn't really come before "American" or "Japanese" here, it comes before one. "American" or "Japanese" or "African" are just adjectives in this case.
    – stangdon
    Sep 8, 2018 at 14:47

2 Answers 2

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In your examples, "the" is a definite article used when a speaker wishes to refer to an item whose specific identity those in the conversation are familiar.

For example, "the taco was spicier than an American one" (using the indefinite article a/an) says that the taco was spicier than ordinarily/generally found in the U.S.; saying "the American one" indicates one specific taco and implies that two tacos were being compared, one American and one non-American.

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    Yes, but it might be worth editing to make the point that although an article is necessary before a singular noun (as OP's one here), it's not syntactically required before the plural form: ...spicier than [the] American ones. Sep 8, 2018 at 14:26
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Generally, we compare things that are similar.

So, you would not compare a taco to the "American one".

If there are two types of tacos, American and Mexican (which is a bit weird since tacos are originally Mexican), you would say: - The American taco was spicier than the Mexican one.

The is used because you have just eaten those two types of tacos. They are specific, and you are not making a general statement about tacos.

As for sushi, it really is only Japanese. So, to compare like things (fish), we would say:

  • The sushi was less expensive than the salmon. [on a menu]

The rule about article the here is that you are talking about a specific food item you have just eaten. You are not making general statements.

Sushi is less expensive than salmon. or Tacos are great.

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