Take a look at these two sentences:

There are problems for students living away from the family.

Computers play a very important role in education nowadays.

Comparing them, I wonder why in the second one, 'education' is not preceded by 'the'.

  • 1
    Actually, the first one looks strange. Their instead of the sounds much more natural.
    – oerkelens
    Sep 9, 2014 at 18:37

2 Answers 2


In your first sentence, "family" is a countable noun - that is, you can have a specific number of families. "Education", on the other hand, is an abstract concept and isn't countable (the concept of "one education" makes no sense).

Because of this, "the" is used in your first sentence to indicate that students are living away from their specific families. If "family" were to be replaced with another abstract uncountable noun (for example "friendship"), you would drop "the" in that sentence as well.

  • 2
    I agree, but note that "family" can also be used as an uncountable noun. "Family is very important to us."
    – Jay
    Sep 9, 2014 at 21:17
  • What Jay said. Also, "a good education" is a common phrase. Sep 10, 2014 at 7:07
  • @Damkerng True enough - I don't think that makes it a countable noun though. "Two educations" is an absurd phrase, but "two families" isn't.
    – ZsigE
    Sep 10, 2014 at 7:37

I would also suggest that "the" is unnecessary in the first sentence, which solves the problem.

Saying "the family" in the first sentence implies one specific family, but doesn't use the possessive pronoun "their" as expected. That makes it sound like a specific family that isn't that of the student - this makes it sound like a reference to the mafia, or a cult :)

I'd instead recommend saying:

There are problems for students living away from family.

This makes family a more general/abstract noun or idea, like education is in the 2nd sentence. Neither requires "the" since it doesn't specifically identify one family or one education.


There are problems for students living away from their families.

This specifically refers to the student's own family, using the correct possessive pronoun.

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