There is a rule that when we use the definite article with plural, we imply all the things of that group. I am confused if it can also mean a subgroup of a group.

There are 2 examples:

1) "I love the goods in this shop" - can it mean that I love some of the particular goods among all of them.

2) "I love the books in this library" - the same here, can it mean that I talk about some particular books in the library, not all of them? Or I should have shown it explicitly by mentioning those books with no article in a sentence before this one (like I describe in 3), otherwise it is understood as if I talk about all the books there?

3) As I understand, if I told something like: "In this shop nice tools (mentioning for the first time) are being sold. The tools (2nd mention) are really nice", than it would imply those particular tools but not all of them, correct?

I hope I made my question clear :) Thanks.


Grammar rules do not get to define or force the "meaning" you wish to convey. Otherwise, most poetry would be quite confusing. Meaning is still derived by the context. Maybe you are being sarcastic---you say "love the goods" but you really mean "I hate the goods."

In your sentence, if you add "all", then we rightly assume your intended meaning is all the goods in the shop. If you use "some", then you are emphasizing there are some goods you do not like. You could probably name some items if asked for a list.

Without any further determiners in your sentence, a likely meaning is "most, maybe all." As well, someone might reasonably ask, "do you like those items on that top shelf?" And you can reasonably answer, "No, I guess I don't like those items", or "Yes, I even like those items."


  • Thanks) And if I answer: "I guess I don't like the items", will it mean the same as "I don't like those items"? – Nikolay Komolov Oct 25 '14 at 4:23

"I love the goods in this shop." - This strongly suggests that you love all of them.

"I love the books in this library." - This strongly suggests that you love all of them.

"I love some of the particular goods among all of them." - I regret to say that this means nothing at all to me.

  • Why 'I love some of the particular goods among them" doesn't make sence? The answer above says that "the" can mean "most, maybe all", you say that "strictly all". What should I suppose to be more correct? – Nikolay Komolov Oct 25 '14 at 4:20

Taken literally, just going by the grammar, "I love the goods in this shop" means that you love all of them.

Of course in practice I would doubt that you literally love every single item there. If I pointed to one particularly ugly or useless item and said, "What about this one? Do you love this one?" and you said, "Well, no, not that one", it would be pedantic to call you a liar for implying you loved them all.

If your intent is to say that you love specific ones, you should say which ones. Like, "I love the stuffed teddy bears in this shop." (Even then you probably don't mean every single one.)

If you wanted to say that you loved many or most without specifying which ones -- perhaps there is no easy classification, or you just don't want to go into detail at this point -- you'd have to reword the sentence. Like, "There are many fine goods in this shop" or "I've found many goods in this shop that I love."

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