I have found at least one similar question already asked here (with really helpful answers); however, I decided to post my question, too, just to check my understanding and provide other learners with more examples.

I would like to review two "scenarios" I found especially interesting lately

  1. Not so long ago, I was studying the use of articles in "more abstract" cases and found these conflicting (?) usage scenarios:

As there is an all-round systemic spread in Covid-19, there is a depression in functioning of organs... (link)

My interpretation: in this case, there is no article before "functioning" and "organs" because both are used in a general sense, "any functioning of any organs"

However, another quotation of the same (!) man, with the article almost the same in that part, reads:

As there is an all-round systemic spread in COVID-19, there is a depression in the functioning of organs... (link)

My interpretation: looks like they edited this part (the second article is published a day after the first). However, in this case, it also make sense, I believe: we are talking about the functioning related to any specific organ (e.g. the functioning of lungs, the functioning of kidneys, etc.). So, it can still be any organs but now "functioning" is tied "one to one"

Then again, we have two more combinations. One of those is:

The persistent presence of clots in the blood, which causes hypoperfusion, affecting the normal functioning of the organs and systems that require a greater supply of oxygen and nutrients, which with most often are the musculoskeletal system, lungs, brain and heart.. (link)

My interpretation (this one is especially clear for me): since in the context, we are talking about specific organs (those that require a greater supply of oxygen and nutrients), and their functions are also tied "one to one"

However, I could not find any real usage of the fourth option: " functioning of the organs". Seems that we cannot be unclear about "function" if we are clear about where it happens.

(The "COVID" part is just to find more current sources.)

  1. The second scenario is similar but there is only one word in question that has or does not have an article. This time, I decided to use the COCA corpus and found out that these cases are almost equally common

"provides the option to" (5 occurrences), e.g.,

The cooler will not only help keep the turkey cool, but provides the option to brine your turkey without taking up space in the refrigerator.

"provides an option to" (7 occurrences), e.g.,

...it's likely that your database connector provides an option to automatically decode any data to unicode.

My interpretation: in the first case, the option/feature is the only one (or, at least, the only one to focus on), so, "the"; in the second case, there might be several options (also, the author expresses that he/she does not imply to know all of them), so, "a".

So, could you please check and comment on my interpretations? Articles are still one of the things I seem to not grasp fully (the other one is Present Perfect: it still makes me scratch my head sometimes...)

  • This is simple. Generally speaking, this is an X of Y noun phrase. And as such, the the would be used: The normal functioning of the organs [of the human body, implied.]
    – Lambie
    Commented Dec 21, 2021 at 16:52

1 Answer 1


I think the first example is just a mistake. "Functioning" is singular and so requires an article (or one of the alternatives to an article, like a possessive). It should be "the functioning".

Regarding "organs": Plurals do not require an article. But we sometimes put "the" in front of a plural to indicate a specific subset of that thing. Presumably what that subset is should be made clear in context, perhaps in the sentence, perhaps in a larger context. For example, one might say, "Bob is an expert in the study of human organs." As we are talking about human organs in general, we don't say "the". But if you wrote, for example, "Bob is an expert in the study of the human organs related to digestion", now we are talking about a subset, not all organs, just those related to digestion, so we say "the". (In most cases, you could leave out the "the" if you think about the subset as the entire subject presently under discussion.)

  • CORRECT distinctions.
    – Lambie
    Commented Dec 21, 2021 at 18:34
  • Thank you, @Jay. Just to clarify: isn't 'functioning' an abstract noun? I was taught that with abstract nouns in general sense, we do not (do not have to?) use an article, like in, 'Love is a beautiful thing'. So, I though that here, we could use 'functioning' the same way, e.g., 'I study functioning of organs'. Or is it that, since we're specifying 'functioning' by using 'of organs' that it now needs 'the' (or any other identifier)?
    – Vladimir
    Commented Dec 21, 2021 at 19:27

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .