In the following two (similar) sentences the definite article is used in one, but not the other.

1 Capital letters are used for the names of people,places and languages.

2.Capital letters are used for names of people,places and languages.

Both sound natural to me. I would be grateful if someone could tell me if one is more technically correct than the other and if so, why? i.e would you use the for a specific meaning Vs no article.


2 Answers 2


General things don't require the: An apple a day is good for you. Apples are good for you.

Capital letters are used for names of people, places and languages.

  • 1
    But this answer misses that fact that the is also possible here, even for the general case. Without an of, you can't use the unless you are speaking about a specific set of names. But the names of people is fine in the general case.
    – Colin Fine
    Jan 9, 2022 at 19:08
  • @ColinFine Yes, possible but not necessary at all. "Names of people in the directory are alphabetized" Yes? Why use: The names of the people there? Compare: "The names of the people in that street are all Polish" (specific) . General things do not require the.
    – Lambie
    Jan 9, 2022 at 19:12
  • No, they do not require it, but they allow it, and that needs explaining.
    – Colin Fine
    Jan 9, 2022 at 22:55
  • @ColinFine My opinion is that by using "the names of people" you are no longer in a general case. "The names of people on the list are not right". i.e., some specific list drawn up by somebody.
    – Lambie
    Jan 10, 2022 at 14:49
  • so you believe that the OP's no 1 is appropriate only if the "people, places and languages" are a specific list? I don't agree.
    – Colin Fine
    Jan 10, 2022 at 17:38

Simplify the sentence makes it easier to determine it is a definite or zero article

Capital letters are used for the names (X) - any name, not specific names that are known or previously mentioned

Capital letters are used for names (O) - any letter for any name

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