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I know that enjoying the sun is appropriate in this sentence:

  1. We passed by the harbor where some kids were taking a dip and other people were enjoying the sun.

But I have noticed that just plain sun sometimes occurs without the requisite definite article the, such as in these sentences from some dictionary examples and random, undisclosed Internet sites:

  1. The plant needs full sun.

  2. This plant likes sun and water as well as a fertile, well-drained soil.

  3. Enjoying sun, sea, beach, music, food, [and so on and so forth].

In accordance with the examples (2) and (3), can I freely use both enjoying the sun and also enjoying sun without distinction?

Does it matter? Why?

Do they mean the same thing? Do they mean different things?

Is one of them ever wrong?

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2 Answers 2

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They mean different things.

In "people were enjoying the sun" they are enjoying that object in the sky.

In "The plant needs full sun" the meaning is that the plant needs sunlight.

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  • Doesn't "enjoying the sun" mean enjoying being out in the sunlight, or more generally enjoying doing the outdoor activities that current sunny weather permits? People don't sit around looking up at and admiring the sun as an object.
    – nnnnnn
    Oct 22, 2020 at 5:09
  • @nnnnnn I think that you have, in passing, defined the real difference. When we say "Needs full sun" or "People enjoy sun" we are talking about uninterrupted sunlight from a clear sky in the abstract. In the case of a plant it needs full sun whenever it can get it, not just today. When we say "The boys are enjoying the sun we are, as you say, enjoying the currently available sunlight from a clear sky. If clouds come over the sun in the afternoon they will stop enjoying "the sun" today but will still be boys who enjoy "sun" in the abstract.
    – BoldBen
    Oct 22, 2020 at 6:21
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You only use definite articles with specified things, for example, in 'enjoying the sun' we are not referring to the star itself but the light, mood and warmth emitted by it. However, in 'plants need sun' we are referring to the star itself therefore it is considered as a whole concrete noun, so we use 'the' when referring to it.

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