The following sentence is extracted form essay talking about single-sex school.

People can get the\no article social experience to deal with the\no article opposite gender later in life and they will learn this fast.

I believe "social experience" is specific enough here because it is not general social experience; however, it is social experience related to the interaction with opposite sex. Therefore first one should be "the", what do you think?

The second one should be "no article" because opposite sex is general.

I am tired from the rules of the definite article, I need some help here!

  • Idiomatically, the first noun (social experience) wouldn't normally have an article, but it could - particularly if the writer is thinking of some very specific kind of "social experience" specifically intended to facilitate (later?) interactions with the opposite sex. But as per my own sentence there, idiomatically you must include the article when using the opposite sex / gender in constructions like this. I'm guessing that's because whichever one it is in any given context, there's only one "other" sex. But "Why?" is irrelevant. Idiomatically, that's just how it is. May 24, 2019 at 18:28

1 Answer 1


"Social experience" is uncountable, but "the opposite gender" is about specific people.

Your sentence does not need any (definite or indefinite) article on the first occurrence, but it does on the second use.

People can get social experience to deal with the opposite gender later in life and they will learn this fast.

The topic is about single-sex schools and it will need more than one social experience to make up for that. So its use is general.

  • This is my problem: how to say whether a group of things or people is specific? "The students in my class", here I am not talking about one student, but I still use "the" because I am talking about specific group of students. In my view, it is the same for social experience as I am talking about pieces of experience "specifically" related to the opposite sex. Hence, I wrote "the" social experience. This is painful because even native English teachers do not agree on this.
    – Costa
    May 24, 2019 at 18:48
  • As @FumbleFingers wrote, you can actually say "the social experience" in a general sense. For example, "I don't have the social experience to ..." And the article isn't being applied to the students, but to experiences which they will have later. May 24, 2019 at 18:51
  • 1
    @Costa There's nothing wrong with saying the social experience, it's simply the fact that it's not as common. Some people will use the article, but more people won't. It's essentially a matter of personal opinion. There is no objective, definititve answer that can be given for what you should or must write in this case. It's up to you. May 24, 2019 at 19:04
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    I think it is agreed you will need "the" for the second use: "the opposite gender." May 24, 2019 at 19:06

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