Tick the correct sentence in the following pair:

  1. Many people are worried about the bad effects of mobiles on brain.

  2. Many people are worried about the bad effects of mobiles on the brain.

I was taking this IELTS test and I went for 1 while the answer key says the correct answer is 2. Can you explain why using the is necessary here?

  • It's a count noun. You need some kind of article there.
    – user230
    May 29, 2014 at 17:14
  • But the reason why I chose 1 is something else. As far as I know, "the" refers to specific nouns but here we're talking about the effect of mobile phones on "everyone who uses it". I mean, It's a general statement that isn't targeting a specific group of people.
    – M.N
    May 29, 2014 at 17:37
  • Noun phrases marked by the are often specific, but not always.
    – user230
    May 29, 2014 at 20:05

1 Answer 1


As snailplane said, you can easily answer the question by thinking that there is normally an article in front of a singular count(able) noun, which is brain in this case. A singular countable noun almost always requires an article, which could be definite or indefinite, depending on what the speaker or the writer means.

The following could answer your question about why the is used here (taken from Practical English Usage by Michael Swan, page 65, entry 70.15):

When talking about parts of someone's body, or about their possessions, we usually possessives, not the


But the is common after prepositions, especially when we are talking about blows, pains and other things that often happen to parts of people's bodies.

She hit him in the stomach.

(Non-italic, bold emphasis mine)

In the sentence "Many people are worried about the bad effects of mobiles on the brain", the bad effects of mobiles is what happens to the brain; it's also after a preposition (on). So the fits here.

Please note that there are a lot of the uses other than its main use, although most of them probably could be explained saying how the uses are somehow specific/definite. The above is only one of them; in the same book from which I took the excerpt there are 19 sub-entries for special rules and exceptions for the, and I doubt that's all there is.

  • Thanks a lot for your answer. And about the typo, you were right. I corrected it. :-)
    – M.N
    May 29, 2014 at 17:50

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .