Suppose we're writing about a power plant that had the first sod turned on the plot chosen for its construction back in 1960's and has been in actual operation since early 1970's.

What would be the best option to pick, grammaticaly speaking:

  • The construction of the plant started in 1963.
  • Construction of the plant started in 1963.

In the second line, there's no definite article. Are both sentences grammatically correct, with the first making a slightly bigger emphasis on the process of construction? Or is only one of them correct?

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    I want to say The Construction implies a more continuous effort, whereas just Construction on its own could imply a more disjointed effort. But that is merely my interpretation. They are fairly equivalent and both correct Jul 4 '14 at 17:17
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    There are times when articles are necessary, and there are times where articles should not be used. And then there are sentences like this one, where it's optional, and pretty much makes no difference.
    – J.R.
    Jul 4 '14 at 23:19

As @EyeOfTheHawks commented, both are grammatically correct. However, they carry slightly different connotations.

  • The construction of the plant started in 1963. – I would mostly expect to hear this in a phrase which was specifically discussing the construction itself. Here, because of the definite article in front of "construction", the focus is on construction.
  • Construction of the plant started in 1963. – This honestly sounds almost like something you'd hear in a documentary about the plant itself. Because there is no definite article in front of "construction", the focus is on the plant.

Honestly, in an average conversation you could hear either one, and they'd both make perfect sense to anyone listening. Formally, they have slightly different meanings as I said above, but the difference really isn't anything major to worry about.

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    Thank you for explaining this. As a native speaker who does not study English, most of the time I cannot articulate or explain why I interpret things a certain way. Odd really. Jul 4 '14 at 17:49
  • @EyeOfTheHawks Indeed, that's one of the quirks of language. Interpretation is king.
    – Eric
    Jul 4 '14 at 17:50
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    TBH, in average conversation, you'd probably hear "They started building it in 1963." :-) Jul 4 '14 at 21:12
  • I don't think there's any change in focus: the difference is on whether the writer/speaker expects the reader/listener to know what they're talking about. By including the definite article, the writer/speaker refers to construction with the expectation that the reader/listener will know what they are referring to: this could be because it's shared cultural knowledge, or because it's a specific instance of construction introduced earlier in the text.
    – jimsug
    Jul 5 '14 at 9:52
  • @jimsug That's an interesting point of view, and I don't think it's entirely wrong. (And is somewhat the point I was making when I said "discussing the construction itself.") That said, I think that does place focus on construction since it's already been understood and you're drawing attention back to it.
    – Eric
    Jul 5 '14 at 16:22

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