In the following sentence in a problem I was assigned, can I use the definite article before "less frequently used"?

___(/,The) less frequently used words or constructions are more likely to be altered to fit the patterns of more common ones.

I was told by my teacher that the right answer here should be a "zero article" (indicated by the "/" in the question), but I don't understand why. Doesn't the attributive "less frequently used" make the noun phrase "words or constructions" more definite?

1 Answer 1


You could use the definite article here if you were talking about specific "less frequently used words or constructions". For example, the previous sentence might have mentioned two kinds of words or constructions: ones that are more frequently used and ones that are less frequently used. In that case, the definite article would be appropriate. (And then I'd probably use a definite article before "more common ones", as well, since those were also specified in the previous sentence.) Without that context, and because there is no definite article before "more common ones", it is reasonable to assume that we are talking about "less frequently used words or constructions" in general. Therefore, the definite article would not be appropriate.

  • 1
    I get it, thanks a lot!! Commented Nov 29, 2021 at 2:18

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