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.

3 Answers 3


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"? Commented Oct 25, 2014 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? Commented Oct 25, 2014 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."

  • Is "the" in this sentence "I love "THE" books in this library."optional with the same meaning?
    – LE123
    Commented Dec 1, 2022 at 10:13
  • 1
    @LEHANH Unfortunately, no, and I admit English rules are a little confusing here. In general, if you use "the" plus plural, you mean some subset, normally made clear from context. If you use a plural without "the", you mean all of those things in the world. Like, "I love books" means I love all books, or I love books in general. (Probably not literally I love every book ever written, but language is often imprecise.) "In my father's house he has lots of old furniture, paintings, and books. I love the books." Here "the books" means the books identified by context, namely, the books in my ...
    – Jay
    Commented Dec 2, 2022 at 16:34
  • 1
    ... father's house. But all that said, a fluent English speaker would be unlikely to say, "I love books in this library." Without a "the", that would mean "I like all books in the world ... in this library." What does that mean? That you like to bring books from other places and read them in this library? That's why we'd say, "I love the books in this library". Not all the books in the world, but the books in the subset that I identify in this sentence. Namely, the ones in this library.
    – Jay
    Commented Dec 2, 2022 at 16:36
  • 1
    Consider, "I love coffee in this library." That implies that you bring coffee from outside, maybe from the coffee shop next door, and then you sit in the library drinking coffee and, presumably, reading the books. Makes sense. "I love the coffee in this library." Either you've previously identified which coffee, or you mean that the library has its own coffee shop and you like the coffee you can get there. (Seems unlikely, but hey, there used to be a bookstore in my town that had a coffee shop.)
    – Jay
    Commented Dec 2, 2022 at 16:39
  • This link says that I can even use "the" with identified things. Here are residents of that tall building, not residents in general ,but the writer still can use " I hate THE residents of that tall building". Let take a look at Eddie Kal's answer ell.stackexchange.com/questions/275541/…
    – LE123
    Commented Dec 18, 2022 at 5:54

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