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Is it advisable to use the definite article "the" in the following sentence?

My goal was to create a webpage based on the provided data. I spent about an hour researching the possible methods.

I've read that using "the possible methods" would suggest all of the possible methods, whereas "possible methods" would suggest some of the possible methods.

Given this point, it initially seemed to me that the choice without "the" is more realistic and reasonable because it is very difficult, if not impossible, to find all possible methods that ever exist.

But on second thought, I find the choice with "the" more reasonable, because my intention when doing the research was to find all the possible methods, not just some of them. So "the" should be used. Does this line of thought sound right to you?

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  • This must be a duplicate, though it's hard to find a match. The short answer is: possible methods = some of the possible methods; the possible methods = all of the possible methods.
    – Juhasz
    Sep 7, 2022 at 20:35
  • @Juhasz Thank you! Your response was very helpful to me. I have been studying English for several years, and this is the first time I learned, at least in a direct way, about some/all based interpretations of the definite article.
    – H D
    Sep 7, 2022 at 20:46
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    @Juhasz When one researches a topic, it is very hard to ensure that they have really identified all possible methods. Given this point, it seems to me the choice without "the" is more realistic and reasonable. Would you mind sharing your opinion on this point?
    – H D
    Sep 7, 2022 at 20:49
  • @Juhasz On second thought, I think the choice with "the" is more reasonable. Because my intention when doing the research was finding all the possible methods, not just some of them. So "the" should be used. Does this line of thought sound right to you?
    – H D
    Sep 7, 2022 at 20:55
  • These additional questions are interesting and nuanced enough that they could make an answerable question here. If you'd like I can edit your original question and then attempt to answer it.
    – Juhasz
    Sep 7, 2022 at 21:02

1 Answer 1

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Using "the" makes it seem as if you are researching on a set number of possible methods, whereas if you were to remove "the" it would mean you are researching for any possible methods. The usage of "the" would therefore depend on what actually you are trying to convey. Hope this helps!

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  • When searching for possible methods to accomplish a task, it is very difficult to decide ahead of time the number of methods to find and review. So your answer seems to suggest that the choice without "the" is likely to be much more common. Did I get right? Is there anything I am missing?
    – H D
    Sep 7, 2022 at 22:22
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    I agree that using "the" makes the research sound exhaustive and/or that there are a set number of methods. If there is not an established set (i.e. a strictly limited group) of methods, eliminating "the" is more reasonable (imho) and doesn't make the writer sound presumptuous, as if every possible option has been explored (which would likely be impossible in an hour anyway).
    – cpit
    Sep 8, 2022 at 5:35

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