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I am translating this (Russian) news article. The article says that a new rubber plant is slated for construction. The plant itself will produce only rubber, not tires. I have a question about my translation of the final sentence:

This grade of rubber is used in the production of (the) so-called "green tires".

The sentence is the last in the news report, added to enlighten the reader on the nature of that particular grade of rubber.

Is the definite article necessary here? I guess not, because although the tires are named, this name could relate to a wide variety of environmentally friendly tires (produced in vast amounts).

This is the only mention of any kind of tires in the article. The meaning is: "the plant will produce this grade of rubber, sell the rubber on the market, where those companies that produce green tires could buy it as feedstock".

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    Definiteness is a largely matter of pragmatics and usually depends on context. I can see this going either way, but without context it's difficult to comment further. – snailcar Oct 20 '14 at 7:38
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    Can you link to the original news article? – starsplusplus Oct 22 '14 at 13:50
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    @CopperKettle Are you asking whether to use the definite article in your own translation? Your question reads like you read the example (English) sentence somewhere. – starsplusplus Oct 22 '14 at 16:15
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    @starsplusplus: Yes, for my translation. I often wonder what article to choose. When I'm unsure why an English source has a particular article, I usually cite the source. – CowperKettle Oct 22 '14 at 16:19
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    To my ear, the version without "the" doesn't sound quite right (AmE speaker). For me, it seems that a determiner is usually used with that idiomatic expression "(the/that/this/her/etc.) so-called X". -- Check out numerous dictionaries, especially for their examples (and when you find a few examples that don't use a determiner, you might want to try to insert one in to see how it sounds). You also might want to try using Google's Ngram Viewer. Looking at some Ngrams of "of (the) so-called X", it seems that both with and without "the" are common. Perhaps look at the specific examples. – F.E. Oct 22 '14 at 18:55
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No, one does not normally include the definite article before "so-called".

This grade of rubber is used in the production of so-called "green tires".  
This grade of rubber is used in the production of "green tires".

The scenario given above by 200_success, to show where "the" would be used, is not entirely implausible, but that answer would really be in response to a question like:

When the factory is finished, where will the "green tires" be made?
When the factory is finished, where will the so-called "green tires" be produced?

But it is unlikely that the response to that question would include the phrase so-called because the questioner already understands that "green-tires" refers to a special kind.

If you leave out so-called then one could use "the" before "green tires" when responding to those questions.

One needs a prior (implicit or explicit) reference to "green tires" in order to use "the".

In the case of the questioner using "the", When the factory is finished, where will the so-called "green tires" be made? the prior reference is implicit, i.e. "the green tires that we have been hearing about in the news".

EDIT: (Taking your clarification into account) The news article, when speaking of the particular grade of rubber and its potential for use in eco-friendly products, should say

This grade of rubber is used in the production of so-called "green tires"

OR

...is used in the production of the so-called "green tire". (singular). The singular establishes an implicit prior reference ("the tire we've all been hearing about").

OR

...is used in the production of a so-called "green tire" (that is, a kind of eco-tire that you're about to describe for the reader.)

  • Oh, I see. @200_success thought that the rubber will be directed to a specific tire production line, while the real meaning is that it will be sold on the marked, and so will become available to all companies manufacturing green tires of different types. I've expanded my question to make it clearer. – CowperKettle Oct 20 '14 at 14:13
  • I've appended some additional remarks to my answer in light of your clarification. – Tᴚoɯɐuo Oct 20 '14 at 14:20
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    Actually, it's quite common to include a definite article before "so-called": corpus.byu.edu/coca/?c=coca&q=33957825 – snailcar Oct 22 '14 at 15:06
  • Your point? There are times to use an article and times not to use an article before so-called. The situations when one would not use an article greatly outnumber those where an article would be used. – Tᴚoɯɐuo Oct 22 '14 at 23:07
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+100

The definite article changes the meaning so much that I had trouble interpreting the sentence correctly until you added information about the context!

Including the definite article is the wrong wording. Let's contrast…

This grade of rubber is used in the production of so-called "green tires".

Without the definite article, the sentence could interpreted two ways:

  1. It is a generalized statement about all tires that claim to be environmentally friendly. In other words, every environmentally friendly technology known to exist uses this grade of rubber. That is probably a broader claim than the author intends to make.
  2. It is a statement about some environmentally friendly tires that will eventually be produced from the rubber made at the new plant.

From the context you gave, the second interpretation appears to be correct.


This grade of rubber is used in the production of the so-called "green tires".

"The" implies that there are some specific tires being referred to.

  1. If the article had previously described some tire technology or tire model, then those are the tires being referred to.
  2. In the absence of any specific mention of tires, I would assume that we are talking about the tires to be produced by the soon-to-be-constructed rubber plant.

Since you have now indicated in the question that neither case is true (the new rubber plant will be selling its output on the open market), I would conclude that including the definite article changes the meaning of the sentence in a catastrophic way.

  • I disagree with the indefinite (zero) article meaning "all green tires in the world". This farm produces apples doesn't mean that this farm produces all apples in the world. – oerkelens Oct 22 '14 at 11:01
  • @oerkelens I have added alternative explanations in light of new contextual information that has been added to the question. – 200_success Oct 22 '14 at 14:58
  • Good edit, I think :) – oerkelens Oct 22 '14 at 15:01
  • Thank you for the expanded answer, @200_success! I'll award the points to you. (0: – CowperKettle Oct 22 '14 at 16:35
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In the context you have supplied, the is best omitted. This is because the zero-article allows for an indefinite reference to "green tires." It appears that no particular type of "green tires" is meant, just "green tires" in general. In addition, if I read the "green tires," I would expect further mention, discussion, or definition of the referent ("green tires") in the news article.

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