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In the following sentence, can "the" be omitted?

A tsar is a person appointed by the government to advise on and coordinate policy in a particular area

2 Answers 2

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In American English, the article is required.

First, you are referring to an actual government, not an abstract concept. When anarchists say something like "Government is evil," they refer to an abstraction, so an article is not required.

In your case, you are referring to a government in a tangible sense, so it is countable. At the national level, there are the government of France, the government of the UK, the government of the US, etc. So far I have counted three, and I can keep counting until I have listed all of them.

Likewise, there are local governments that administer affairs at the levels of states, provinces, counties, cities, and so on. These are also countable.

If any of these entities can appoint a tsar, and we wish to define the idea in a general way, we can use the indefinite article:

A tsar is a person appointed by a government to advise on and coordinate policy in a particular area.

Your sentence, with the definite article, would make sense if your audience understands that you mean a particular government. For example, if no context has been specified, when Americans say something about the government, they mean the federal government that is administered from Washington, D.C.

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  • Thank you. Then the Oxford Dictionary seems to be in error when it includes no article in the definition of "tsar": lexico.com/definition/tsar
    – Apollyon
    Nov 13, 2021 at 6:34
  • I have amended my answer to account for what seem to be differences in UK and US usage. Nov 13, 2021 at 10:01
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In British English, both "government" and "the government" are correct, and it is not necessary for "government" to refer to an abstract process.

  • "Who runs government: the Prime Minister" (UK government website)
  • "That will be critical when Government decides how new funding is allocated." (East Sussex Bus Service Improvement Plan)
  • "This should be recognised when government decides on post-Brexit support for the agricultural sector in Scotland" (Orkney Islands Economic Review)
  • "When Government decides the time is right, the railway will respond" (Chronicle Live)
  • "She does not like or tolerate dissent and her party has become more centrally controlled than at any time in its history. This is also how she runs government." (Centre on Constitutional Change)
  • "The Panel of Technical Experts (PTE) is an advisory group of independent consultants who were appointed by government to perform a specific and technical function as part of the first Electricity Market Reform delivery plan" (UK government website)

Also:

  • (Canada) "Chairs and members are appointed by government through a merit-based process." (Government of British Colombia)
  • (India) "The statute may provide for suitable rules being made by the Corporation itself or by Government" (Government of India)

In British English, it is common to use the phrases "central government" and "local government" without "the". ("Local government" is usually treated as a mass noun in British English; "a local government" is unidiomatic, unlike in US English.)

  • "Spending on local government has fallen across the UK" (Institute for Government)
  • "We are a politically-led, cross-party organisation that works on behalf of councils to ensure local government has a strong, credible voice with national government" (Local Government Association)
  • "Local Government has key responsibilities for social care" (Welsh NHS)
  • "Business rates retention scheme. National Non Domestic Rates (NNDR) commonly known as business rates are set by central government." (West Suffolk Council)
  • "The Committee will question senior officials at HM Treasury and MHCLG on the evolving financial pressures on local government and support provided by central government" (Local Government Finance Committee, UK Parliament)

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