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Is it more appropriate to say or write: "Canadian provinces and territories are much larger than American states." Or "THE Canadian provinces and territories are much larger than THE American states." Is the determiner necessary or dispensable without one modifying the meaning of the sentence.

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  • There is no need for a the there, even though the sentence is not true.
    – Lambie
    Jan 10, 2022 at 19:10
  • Out of 13 Canadian provinces, 12 are smaller than Alaska, the largest American state, so your example sentences don't make much sense with or without articles. Jan 10, 2022 at 19:42
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    @MichaelHarvey But on average, Canadian provinces are much larger than US states. For example, the 6th largest province, Alberta, is larger than 48 US states. But the sentence is not very well-written if that's what was intended.
    – stangdon
    Jan 10, 2022 at 20:13

2 Answers 2

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GENERAL STATEMENT = No the "Canadian provinces and territories are much larger than American states."

SPECIFIC STATEMENT= use the the
"The Canadian provinces and territories we are studying are much larger than the American states."

[The truth of the statements are not relevant to the explanation of the grammar.]

  • Kids get very dirty playing in the yard. [general]
  • The kids got very dirty playing in the yard today. [specific]

The kids=the ones I am taking care of or that are mine.

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As MichaelHarvey points out, there are problems with the example sentence beyond articles, but you're right that using articles can make the difference between talking individual items and groups.

Apples weigh more than oranges.

This suggests that any given individual apple weighs more than a given individual orange.

The apples weigh more than the oranges.

Especially if I had already established a context earlier, like "I have a bag of apples and a bag of oranges," using the definite article shifts the meaning to talk about the [group of] apples and the group of oranges.

This breaks down in the example sentence about provinces and states, because the countries of Canada and United States are "more than the sum of their parts" in a way that bags of fruit are not. By mentioning the component provinces and states, it's hard to still create a meaning that talks about the total landmass of the two countries; it seems to shift the meaning back onto comparing Canadian provinces (individually, or in the abstract) to US states.

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  • Agreed. The Canadian provinces are larger than the American states, sounds like the total size of the provinces is greater than the total size of the states.
    – EllieK
    Jan 10, 2022 at 21:23

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