We use uncountable nouns or plural nouns to talk generally about something, and we use the definite article "the" with singular nouns or uncountable nouns when the context is specific.

Now I don't understand why "the" is not used in the first 4 cases? This is very confusing especially when you compare them with the last group of examples which follows the above rule.

The BBC: There are a range of laws that help to promote equality and social justice in Northern Ireland.

The Guardian: Indeed, no other diagnosis has had a more dramatic impact on law and social justice in the USA.

The Financial Times: “The remarkably small increase in unemployment in the eurozone reflects the success of the government job subsidy schemes and an exodus from the labour force in Italy,” said Andrew Kenningham

The Guardian: I immediately encountered the differences between higher education in the US and higher education in the UK.

The Telegraph: Where is the social justice in a country where a privileged few have such enduring dominance and the best chance of success in life?

The BBC: She also said she had a "real desire to see the social justice in our country turned around"

The New York Times: The Trump administration accused Chinese citizens of stealing scientific research and told the country's diplomats in Texas to leave

The Independent: VIPKid has set itself apart by recruiting American teachers and positioning its services as similar to the education in top US schools.

The Guardian: Dr Tyson insisted that all the evidence showed that very few jobs had been lost in the West because of this threat. "Almost all of the unemployment in the West has been caused by the dramatic drop in demand," she said.

The Guardian: The World Bank knows it: the education of girls is the surest way in the world of reducing poverty.

The Guardian: (Strangely, the same liberal democracy has apparently been able to survive the unemployment of millions of blue-collar workers. But we will let that pass.)

  • What do you mean?? the is used in the first three cases, just not with Northern Ireland. Also, your second set of uses makes this question much too broad. It does not make sense to ask about country names mixed with together with other uses of the, no determiner, plural and a.
    – Lambie
    Commented Aug 2, 2020 at 15:12

1 Answer 1


Why isn't the definite article used in these cases although the context is specific?

"The is sometimes used with uncountable nouns in the same way it is used with plural countable nouns, that is, to refer to a specific object, group, or idea." (owl.perdue.edu)

You can speak about "social justice", as a general and universal concept, as it applies in Ireland.


You can speak about "social justice" which is only occurring in Ireland.

It's a very small and subtle difference, and ultimately might mean almost the same thing. But sometimes you can say (almost) the same thing in two different ways.

"unemployment" in Ireland

The general universal concept of "unemployment"... but then thinking about Ireland.

"the unemployment" in Ireland

This is more specifically "unemployment only in Ireland".

  • Please don't repeat the OP's grammar mistake...
    – Lambie
    Commented Aug 2, 2020 at 15:00

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