Should I use the in the following sentences or not?

  1. Every colony of ants has worker ants. The worker ants/ worker ants protect their colony and the queen ant.

  2. Colonies of ants have worker ants. The worker ants/ worker ants protect their colonies and queen ants.

I think in the first context, the is needed because it somehow implies 'The worker ants of every colony'. And in the second context the is not needed.

And here is another example:

  1. Tigers are very ferocious. Tigers/the tigers are great killers too and the biggest species of cat family.

I know you'd suggest using the pronoun they instead in all the above sentences. I would use they there too. But when I was teaching my nephew he asked me If he could use those words instead. I was not sure which one to choose: the ones with the or the ones without the.

1 Answer 1


I do not see examples 1 and 3 as raising an issue of grammar at all. In both, you are really referring to all worker ants, all within a colony in the first example, all in the universe in the second. So in neither example do you need to specify some specific set of worker ants. Just because you do not need the article does not always make its use wrong. By using it, you are emphasizing the distinction between worker ants and other types of ants such as drones.

As a matter of style, I do agree with you that I prefer the article in the first example, where, by using the singular "colony" and "queen ant," we are indicating some within the entire universe of ants. Similarly, like you, I prefer no article in the second example. But I feel that is style rather than grammar.

In the third example, where you clearly are referring to the entire class of tigers, I'd definitely prefer "Tigers" or "The tiger" over "the tigers." But again I am not sure that is a rule of grammar.

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