Question: Where can I buy these cakes?

Answer 1-You can buy these from the supermarket. (to refer to any supermarkets)

Answer 2-You can buy these from supermarkets.

I think that we can say ".......the supermarket" to refer to a particular supermarket and to refer to any supermarket, but I am not quite sure if I might also say or if I have to say "........from supermarkets. (without article the before supermarkets" to refer to any supermarket.

Are both usages correct?

  • 3
    I'm not convinced many native Anglophones would use singular the supermarket to refer to "supermarkets in general" the way Brits might say Let's go down the pub without necessarily even having any particular pub in mind. Just as you'd rarely hear the singular in, say, I'm offering you this bottle of perfume at the bargain price of only £5! It would cost you at least £40 in the shop / shops! Dec 18, 2021 at 19:23
  • 2
    @FumbleFingers I'm not entirely convinced. I feel sure we might well say to a friend, without having any awareness of which supermarket they used, when recommending a product "Next time you are in the supermarket take a look". The definite article would imply their regular routinely visited supermarket. But if we were referring to any one of a number, one would obviously use the indefinite. -"Next time you are in a supermartket take a look".
    – WS2
    Dec 18, 2021 at 22:00
  • 2
    @FumbleFingers This Canadian anglophone certainly would use "the supermarket" in the same way we'd say "go down to the pub" or "catch the bus" or "listen to the radio".
    – gotube
    Dec 19, 2021 at 2:48
  • 2
    @gotube Same in the U.S., "the supermarket" can definitely refer to supermarkets generally. I actually find "You can buy these from supermarkets" stranger to the ear.
    – Katy
    Dec 19, 2021 at 3:14
  • 1
    Yes, if I used the plural I would definitely leave out the article. Dec 19, 2021 at 8:54

1 Answer 1


The first answer could mean "That supermarket that we both know". It is also possible that the speaker doesn't really have a specfic supermarket in mind. But even then, its not really about supermarkets in general, but about the supermarkets that I have knowledge of. However the situation is flexible enough that it doesn't really matter.

It is certainly possible to say "You can buy them at supermarkets", that seems to be a little more general, and even "at a supermarket" is possible.

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