I wonder which phrase is grammatically correct.

the ones with the black hair

the ones with black hair

For me both sound right. But when I searched Google Books I found the second one to be far more common. But why was the article omitted? Does it have to do with the fact that this is a prepositional phrase or it's irrelevant?

2 Answers 2


The only difference I hear is that "The ones with the black hair"
indicates that the speaker believes that some of them do have black hair.

while "The ones with black hair."
does not indicate the speaker believes some have black hair, but thinks some might believe so. (Otherwise, why mention them at all).

However, the second form, without the definite article, could be used even if the speaker knows that some have black hair.

That means that using "the" adds information about the speakers belief, but its omission does not.

  • 1
    How does the second form have any uncertainty? Why would you say ‘the ones with black hair’ if some of them might have black hair? Correct me if I’m missing something, Mar 31, 2020 at 23:32
  • To me, the first form indicates that the speaker knows that some of them have black hair. The second form, not having a definite article, does not indicate such knowledge, but it could have been used even if the speaker had such knowledge. That is how I see it. Did I express it badly? Apr 1, 2020 at 1:36
  • Me too I don't understand why the one without 'the' implies any uncertainty, is this a grammatical rule?
    – Manar
    Apr 1, 2020 at 20:30
  • I didn't say that the omission of the definite article implies uncertainty. I said the form with a definite article suggests the speaker believes that some such exist; the form without does not suggest such a belief. That is not a grammatical rule, but the meaning of "definite" in definite article. Apr 1, 2020 at 20:52
  • I guess my answer wasn't as clear as it should be. I'm going to edit it to add some emphasis. Apr 1, 2020 at 20:55

But why was the article omitted?

If you use noun X to mean "type of/kind of/category of X", this is abstract and the article isn't used.

the ones with the black hair

Black hair is no longer meant abstractly. Furthermore, the means the speaker/writer expects you to know which black hair he/she is talking about, and the question of "which black hair" is important.

Black hair without the does tend to assume that all of the ones have hair. If this isn't necessarily true, the black hair might be used, because that would create something other than the color to be distinctive enough for the question of "which hair" to matter.

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