Are all of these sentences grammatically correct?

a. "That man claims he talks to angels."
b. "That man claims he talks to the angels."
c. "That man claims he talks to ghosts of the dead."
d. "That man claims he talks to the ghosts of the dead."

Does 'the' change anything ?

Do b and d mean that he claims that he talks to all angels/all of the ghosts of the dead?

Could a and c be used if he claims that he talks to all angels/all of the ghosts of the dead?

1 Answer 1


"the" usually is used for a specific thing. Whereas without using the "the" means that the man talks to angels generally.

I will change the "angel" to just regular "people" so it's easier to understand the examples without "the":

That man talks to people.

That would mean something like he talks to people, not any group of people specifically. Whereas if you add the "the":

That man talks to the people.

That would mean that he talks to a group of people specifically.

  • 1
    Thank you so much. That's the point. Normally 'the angels' would mean a set of angels (all of them), but wouldn't using 'the' in that sentence without any set being defined imply that he claimed to be talking to all angles? To me, (b) sounds strange if we haven't defined a set of angels, but if I say 'The man claims to talk to the saints' without defining a set of saints, the sentence would just mean he's talking to all of them. To me, with 'saints' it works, but with 'angels' and 'ghosts' there seems to be a problem (if a set has not been defined.)
    – azz
    Jan 3, 2021 at 9:07
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    @azz Yes exactly, the b and d examples should be used only if the other person definitely knows who are the people that "the" points too. Jan 3, 2021 at 9:10
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    To me, using the angels presupposes that angels exist and can be identified as a particular group of beings, while just saying angels or ghosts could sound more sceptical. (It's unnecessary to specify of the dead .) Jan 3, 2021 at 9:23
  • 1
    @KateBunting That's true. A particular group. Jan 3, 2021 at 9:24

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