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The decomposition of microscopic animals at the bottom of the sea results in an accumulation of .... in porous rocks.

the oil / oil

Which one is correct and why? I know when we are talking about a general abstract, we shouldn't use the before a non countable noun

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    It's an arguably over-elliptical sentence to start with. 'The decomposition of microscopic animals at the bottom of the sea results in D oil which then accumulates in porous rocks.' [where D tells us more about the type of oil produced: probably petroleum] doesn't miss out a key step. But if your sentence is standalone, 'the' is out of place. The oil? What oil? Jun 1, 2021 at 13:51
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    Is it any old oil or a specific oil?
    – Hot Licks
    Jun 1, 2021 at 17:51
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    Do not trust prepared questions of the "which one is right" variety. As you can see, they're often wrong, don't explain answers, and can't be trusted. Get a different textbook. Jun 1, 2021 at 18:43
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    Is this the complete text? As Hot Licks says, it depends on whether you're talking about specific oil or mentioning oil being formed.
    – Stuart F
    Jun 2, 2021 at 8:14
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    It's just that. It's originally a multiple question but I couldn't figure out between these two and the answer is suppose to be "the oil"
    – shahrzad 7073
    Jun 2, 2021 at 11:06

2 Answers 2

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As gotube points out, it is impossible to say which is correct without seeing the complete context, which you mentioned does exist.

For example, the passage could read:

There is sometimes oil present on the sea floor. The decomposition of microscopic animals at the bottom of the sea results in an accumulation of .... in porous rocks.

Here "the oil" would be correct, as it refers back to the specific oil that is the subject of the passage as a whole. This is an awkward way of writing it; given that the oil itself is the subject, I would expect it to come at the beginning of the sentence:

The oil accumulates in porous rocks due to the decomposition of microscopic animals at the bottom of the sea.


But if instead the full context was:

Many factors affect the makeup of materials on the sea floor. The decomposition of microscopic animals at the bottom of the sea results in an accumulation of .... in porous rocks. Ocean currents move scouring sand across the sea bed. From time to time, a dead whale will drop to the bottom and provide a both food and habitat for scavengers.

...then the oil mentioned is just one of several things, and is not the subject of the passage as a whole. In this case "oil" without the definite article would be correct.

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The decomposition of microscopic animals at the bottom of the sea results in "the" accumulation of oil in porous rocks.

Shouldn't it be "the" since this accumulation is assumed to be a result of the decomposition?

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  • Hey Deejay, and welcome to the forum! Your answer here feels more like a comment than an answer, so use the "Add a comment" link. An "answer" should be something the original poster (OP) could select as one that satisfies their question.
    – gotube
    Jun 12, 2021 at 19:13

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