Here's an example text:

Factors that affect a person's adaptation to exercise could be seen as falling into one of two groups: the subjective and the objective factors. The subjective factors include, among other things, the age and sex of a person. The objective factors include the external conditions ...

Is the definite article needed here? Or is it in the wrong place here? "Subjective factors" and "objective factors" are mentioned in the first sentence, but only vaguely, not as some definite finite group. In books I find examples of "subjective factors include" without the definite article.

  • 1
    I think the text you found in CollaborateCom 2008 ("Subjective factors include ...") uses the factors indefinitely. However, in your example text above, [f]actors has already been mentioned when the reader reaches "The subjective factors include ...", so it's a definite usage--the subjective factors, one of the two groups of the [f]actors, as previously stated. Commented Jun 6, 2014 at 18:32

2 Answers 2


Grammatically both are correct and both sounds perfectly normal but they ( at least in my opinion) have slightly different meanings.

The passage begins saying "factors" without the article because wet haven't said anything about them and we are more talking about the idea of factors while. Later on, once we have classified them as "these factors" and "those factors" we have a more concrete description of them and we are talking about specific factors.

Of course it really makes little difference and I wouldn't have thought twice about it had it been done differently.

  • Thank you! So the bolded definite articles are not strictly necessary in this excerpt? The two sencences would look just fine with zero articles in their beginning? Commented Jun 16, 2014 at 7:53
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    Yep. In my opinion it's mostly a question of style and preference. (Though mine would be to leave as is) Commented Jun 16, 2014 at 14:06

It's up to you, but I'd say that the subject isn't really needed here. It doesn't sound wrong in any way with the subject included, but it just seems a little more natural to me to leave out "the".

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