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Which is correct or better?

The materials used in making buildings are cement, bricks, sand, plaster of Paris.

Some materials used in making buildings are cement, bricks, sand, plaster of Paris.

Is the usage of "the" in the first statement correct?

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    Idiomatically, for the second example most people wouldn't have some as the first word - they'd use include instead of are to convey exactly the same meaning (and usually include and before the final item in the list). Mar 2, 2023 at 14:19
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    Don't forget the "and".
    – aschepler
    Mar 2, 2023 at 22:48
  • @FumbleFingers I think you could post that as an answer.
    – Stef
    Mar 3, 2023 at 15:46

3 Answers 3

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Starting the sentence with "the" implies that the materials listed are the only materials used in making buildings. I think in this case, it is better to start the sentence with "Some of the" to make it clear that the list given is meant to be examples of materials used:

Some of the materials used in making buildings are cement, bricks, sand, and plaster of Paris.

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    Personally I have a preference for "Materials used in building construction include cement, brick, sand, and plaster of Paris." Possibly with ", among others." at the end if you really really really need to be explicit about the list not being exhaustive.
    – Stef
    Mar 3, 2023 at 15:41
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By using the you are saying that they are the only materials used. Without it the list does not specify all the materials. Which statement is correct depends on the methods of building, but it might be difficult to build a large building with a roof using only those materials.

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There is a context I've thought of that may make the first variant correct: if you're picking those 4 materials from a larger, finite list; so you have a list containing those 4 then for example soil, rocks and salt. Then you'd say the rather than some.

Also regarding the list I would put and in front of the last item, in this case plaster of Paris, turning it into

cement, bricks, sand, and plaster of Paris.

There is some debate surrounding the comma after sand and whether it should stay, I'm firmly on the side of that debate where it stays.

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    I see your position in that debate is firmly cemented.
    – Stef
    Mar 3, 2023 at 15:44
  • Do you mean to say that when the list is finite and even when we list a few of the elements of the list, using "the" is appropriate and when the list is not finite it is not appropriate to use "the"?
    – Osmium
    Mar 4, 2023 at 3:07
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    @Osmium Essentially, yes. When there’s a finite list, the implied meaning is, “Out of these seven materials, the materials used for constructing buildings are…”. In this case, introducing the list of materials first makes the materials known information – they’re already present in the scope of the conversation. If you don’t introduce a list first (so the ‘list’ is basically ‘all materials in the world’ by default), then the materials are new information, and you wouldn’t use the definite article with them. Definite articles (essentially) indicate that something is already known. Mar 4, 2023 at 11:07

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