We know that the definite article can often be used with things that are "expected to be" in the context (even when they haven't been mentioned).

e.g. When I wake up I go to the kitchen

("the kitchen" hasn't been mentioned in the previous context but it's expected that a normal person would have a kitchen in the place where they live) or

I went to a restaurant last night and I had to call the chef because the food was tasteless

("the chef is expected to be in a restaurant as well as "the food"). Despite working pretty well with singular nouns, I've noticed that this logic often doesn't apply to nouns in plural. Thus, I've come up with some examples, Could you please provide all possible asnwers for each example (e.g. ex.1 - the/zero article are possible, ex.2: only the is possible etc.)

She got mad at me yesterday. She walked into the kitchen and started breaking (the?) plates

She got mad at me yesterday. She walked into the living room and started breaking (the?) furniture

I was at the library last night and a lot of people were using (the?) computers instead of reading (the?) books

I run a medical clinic. In my clinic we pay (the?) doctors a lot

(the?) Inmates in this prison are treated like animals

in the MIT college (the?)teachers really care about (the?) students

Google pays a lot to (the?) employees who perform well.

(the?) Education I received in college didn't help my career


I don't like this movie, but I like (the?) actors and special effects

(is it possible to use "zero article" before "actors" in this context?)

I hope you can help me, thank you for your time!

  • 1
    Lots of example sentences tends to attract long, unclear answers and nitpicks. Two examples of the same thing is the most you need. The others just make for more work for those answering.
    – gotube
    Commented Oct 27, 2022 at 15:10
  • I appreciate your advice and I agree with the first part (the one about nitpicks and unclear answers), However, since I am doing a research I'm trying to stick to the following principles: 1. the more data you analyze - the more precise your results are 2. any hypothesis or model needs numerous confirmations before we can consider it reliable Hence, the multitude of similar examples Commented Oct 27, 2022 at 16:18
  • In English, you can't say: I wake up and go to kitchen. You could say: go to a kitchen, if there were several to choose from. If you have a plural noun, you don't need anything: Actors [general idea] can be very nice people. BUT: I like the actors [specific idea] in this movie.
    – Lambie
    Commented Oct 27, 2022 at 17:48
  • @Lambie Thanks! Is it possible to say "Actors in this movie are great", though? (without using "the") Commented Oct 27, 2022 at 18:28
  • Not to be formally grammatical. Maybe in instant messaging.
    – Lambie
    Commented Oct 28, 2022 at 15:14

1 Answer 1


All your examples except the one with "Education" are correct with or without the definite article.

I'm not sure where you get the idea that there is a difference for plurals.


In the case of the singular, a definite article is used to differentiate between referring to a single instance of the thing in question or one of many (even in the case where you might naturally expect only one - such as 'the owner').

In the case of plurals there are obviously many.


  • I spoke to the chef :: There was only one chef.

  • I spoke to a chef :: There were several chef's and I spoke to one.

  • I spoke to waiters :: Clearly, there were multiple waiters so you don't need to use an article, but you can, to imply how many you spoke to.

Note that there are exceptions: a teacher might say: "I went into school, today", because there is only one school that s/he would be going to.

Edited in response to an error pointed out by Kate Bunting.

  • I got this theory from analyzing the language. I went to a restaurant and talked to the owner ("the owner " is expected, i cannot say "an owner") I went to a restaurant and talked to the waiters ("the waiters" are expected but I can also say "waiters" with zero article) So the logic for "things that are expected" changes when I use nouns in plural, at least from what I can tell. And by the way, thank you for providing an answer! Commented Oct 27, 2022 at 13:15
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    I agree with @PRL75 except that I consider that the last one does require the, and the one before doesn't (its employees or those employees would be better). In the other sentences, the implies the ones that are/were there Commented Oct 27, 2022 at 13:29
  • Maybe it's just me, but article-less started breaking plates more strongly alludes to a "known, familiar" activity. Specifically, what Greek taverna waiters sometimes do after all the customers have finished eating (because they'd rather do folk dancing than the washing up! :) Commented Oct 27, 2022 at 13:36
  • @Mr. Past Progressive Sorry, I think I misinterpreted your question. I've expanded the answer.
    – PRL75
    Commented Oct 27, 2022 at 13:46
  • 1
    Both are acceptable; I would find the banks more natural (the ones in this city). Commented Oct 28, 2022 at 7:55

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