I noticed that there's some connection between time and how defined a noun is. I want to test this theory I am a teacher in college. My class consits of 30 students, but only 22 of them attend regularly. Only I know that, the listener doesn't have these numbers.

I appreciate THE students who attend my lectures

I appreciate students who attend my lectures

When I have in mind those 22 students, who attend my lectures regularly this year, I should use #1 And when I am speaking about any students of any year I would use #2

#1 Implies that I appreciate only the students who are currently enrolled in my class and attend it regularly (this year, cause my class lasts 1 year)

#2 Implies that I appreciate all students who attend my classes, regardless of year. Students who will be attending regularly next year will also be appreciated And students who attended regularly 5 years ago also will be appreciated. If one of the students who hasn't been attending changes their ways and starts attending, I will appreciate them too.

  1. Is that Interpretation correct?
  2. If it's correct, do I have to change #1 into Present Continuous, since I am talking about the current period of time?
  • 1
    There is zero correlation between time and articles. That's not how they work. Generally, we say the for specific students so the first is fine. The second is fine too. I appreciate large cars. I appreciate the large car sitting in my driveway. The is specific, plural countables are general. The students means those that attend. Students that attend is just general. I like apples on the table.
    – Lambie
    Commented Jun 12 at 22:25

1 Answer 1


Utterances don't exist out of context. Would you go up to a stranger and start telling them about your students at random? No. This must be part of a conversation or a paragraph or something.

"The students" simply means that the answer to the question, "Which students?" is answerable from context. Perahaps someone who knows you are a teacher has asked "What do you think about your students this year?" That is the time reference. Now the answer to "Which students?" is clear; they are "determined". The context provided by the question allows both you and your listener to know which students. (Answer "the students in this year's class who attend regularly", you don't need to know that there are 22, or their names to be able to answer "which?")

But if the question is about any students, then "which" can't be answered, so don't use "the". If you are talking about students in general and not about those in a particular school/class/year group/course" then they are not determined, so use no determiner.

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