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1 People celebrate leaving the life they don't like. (a general statement) - NO article - celebrate leaving - I think the sentence is correct.

2 I am going to celebrate leaving my old life. (I don't feel comfortable omitting "the or my" here. Because it's a specific case.) Do I need "the" here? - I am not sure of the sentence is correct.

3 I am going to celebrate the leaving my old life. But 3 sounds wrong without "of".

3a I am going to celebrate the leaving of my old life.

Questions: a) Do you agree that 2 is wrong? Or maybe it's OK. b) Why is "of" needed if we add "the" in 3? c) Is there a difference between 3a and 2 (if 2 is correct)?

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    (2) is fine and doesn't need an article. (3a) makes me think of the song The Leaving of Liverpool, so I would hesitate to say it's wrong, but (2) is much more idiomatic in modern speech. Celebrate is followed by a gerund or a noun phrase like my birthday. Oct 11 at 9:28
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The rule with articles, as always, is that the definite article is used with something specific, and the indefinite article is used with something non-specific.

Although each person only has one life, different sections of a person's life marked by major changes may be referred to as different lives.

If you are speaking about a 'life' that is unique to a specific person, you might use the definite article. For example, a person who was a criminal and then reformed might refer to "the life I left behind". It is unique because it was theirs and is clearly definable in their past.

On the other hand, a person looking to make a life change might say "I want a new life for myself". This is because the new life has not yet been made, it is not a unique experience to them, and they may have many choices available to them, so it is not unique.

Your example 1 could work with either definite or indefinite articles, because "people" is non-specific. If you use the indefinite article, it refers to people in general; if you use the definite article you are singling out any individual within that generalisation and saying that each, in turn, have their own life.

Example 2 only really works with the possessive pronoun. If you speak personally about leaving "the life", it isn't clear which specific life you are talking about. I think even that "the life" is used idiomatically to refer to a life of crime, so if you said "I'm leaving the life" that could have a very specific meaning you don't intend.

Example 3 is really unrelated, because the article isn't associated with "life". You are right, 3a is correct.

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  • I think I failed to make it clear that the articles I was interested in didn't refer to the word "life" but to the word "leaving".
    – user1425
    Oct 11 at 10:29

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