Here's a quote from a book:

In multithreaded programs there is often a division of labor between [zero article] threads. In one common pattern, some threads are producers and some are consumers.

In brief, it's discussing computer programs, which are based on multiple threads of execution.

I wonder why there was used the zero article in front of the word "threads" in the phrase "between threads", while it's obvious that any program can "divide a labor" only between the threads it consists of. That is the threads are quite specific. But by using the zero article the author meant unspecific threads, didn't he/she? How can that be explained?

  • 3
    "In multithreaded programs", and "a division of labor" are general statements. It's a discussion about execution threads, not about a thread or the thread. That would happen when discussing the behaviour in a specific example when the thread does this or that in various circumstances. Commented Jul 2, 2020 at 22:24
  • Obviously, "a" cannot be used since the noun is plural. Since the author does not talk about a specific set of threads, they used the plural form to talk about the threads in the general sense.
    – Cardinal
    Commented Jul 2, 2020 at 22:25
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    You kinda answered your own question. It mostly depends on what the "author meant." Based on this context, he was talking about the general concept of "thread" in multithreaded programs, not some specific threads. It would be "the threat" if the author was talking about running a program with say 5 threads and how "the threads" divide the labour between each other. It is a bit subjective and no one would bat an eye if they used either version of the word (with or without "the") here. Commented Jul 3, 2020 at 0:19

1 Answer 1


With plural nouns, you have two options:

  • zero article - used if the question "which Xs" is not important.

  • definite article - used if the question "which Xs" is important.

In multithreaded programs there is often a division of labor between [zero article] threads

Can you answer the question which threads? No, because it applies to threads in general--i.e. anything that is a thread.

So, no article.

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