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So today, I was playing a video game with my English speaking friend and I said "They're displaying incorrect help text here at the beginning of the mission" and suddenly got really confused about the usages of the.

I knew that I wasn't able to use 'a' because 'text' is an uncountable noun, but I was not sure about using 'the' in front of the 'Incorrect help text' bit either, but I just said it and my friend told me I was right, but added he would have used 'the' if the sentence had been 'They're displaying the wrong help text at the beginning of the mission'

so I was wondering why and when I have to use...'the'

  1. They're displaying incorrect help text at the beginning of the mission
  2. They're displaying the incorrect help text at the beginning of the mission
  3. They're displaying wrong help text at the beginning of the mission
  4. They're displaying the wrong help text at the beginning of the misson

So, in English, are the sentences above clearly all different and do they have different meanings? and if some of the sentences are not correct, I'd like to know why. It's so confusing at time as I don't use 'the' this often and it's not that important in my native language.

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  • Did the text have mistakes in it, or was it the text for a different mission?
    – gotube
    May 31, 2021 at 22:05
  • @gotube Hello, thanks for the comment. the text didn't have any mistake in it, it was just some random text that didn't need for the mission!
    – Jude Keum
    Jun 26, 2021 at 21:35
  • You're right to question it because "the" implies a well-defined, specified noun, or one that has been referred to already in the context. But in this case, there's many possible wrong texts, and none has been referred to before. As Ethan says in his answer below, without "the" it sounds like the text has errors, and with "the" it suggests it's the wrong text entirely. I can't think of any rule that would predict this, so my guess is "the wrong" + noun is just an idiomatic structure in English.
    – gotube
    Jun 29, 2021 at 0:48

1 Answer 1

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The sentences without "the" say that the help text is wrong or incorrect in some way. It might have errors.

With "the" the sentences suggest that this help text is accurate but not applicable in the current situation. It's the wrong (or incorrect) text at this spot. It might work elsewhere in the game but some other text belongs here. That might be a bug in the software that links to the help text files.

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  • You're right in all you say, but I don't know if it will satisfy Jude's doubts. Normally, "the" refers to one specific, well-defined noun, like "The guy I was just talking to...". In this case, however, any text other than the correct help text would be wrong. So why is "the wrong text" when there's an infinite number of possible incorrect texts?
    – gotube
    Jun 28, 2021 at 21:39
  • @gotube "The wrong text" in this context suggests (to me) that there is a right text somewhere, not just that this is instead of infinitely many other possibilities. Jun 28, 2021 at 22:17

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