3

"I entered the classroom during the lesson. Students were paying attention."

Here the first sentence gives enough information that there must be students there. And then I introduce them in the second sentence.

1) Is it correct usage?

2) What will be the difference from saying "the students"?

3) I understand no article can mean introducing some of the students there, but can mean all, so it's vague but acceptable, however when I mean roughly all, saying with no article as an introduction here would be unnatural.

Do I feel it right?

Please, help. Thanks!

2

The conversation beneath your answer is getting a little long, so let me add something here:

"There were people there. People were nice." - is not grammatical.

True, because you've already mentioned the people. You need to say, "The people were nice", meaning, "The people [in that location] were nice."

"I entered the police station. The officers were looking at me" = those who were at the room I entered, not all over the building, were looking it me?

Yes, of course, it means the officers in the room – not every officer in the squadron, or every officer in the city, or every officer on duty that day.

"I entered the classroom during the lesson. Students were paying attention."

The first sentence gives enough information that there must be students there. And then I introduce them in the second sentence. Is it correct usage? What will be the difference from saying "the students"?

It's correct either way, although leaving the article out is usually interpreted as:

[Some] students were paying attention     (i.e., most, or all, or half, or a few)

whereas when you say "the students," it's generally assumed:

[All or most] students were paying attention     (i.e., most, or all, or half, if not a bit more than half)

That is, as a group, the students were paying attention.

can "the students", "the officers", if there are more of them who were paying attention/looking at me than those who didn't do that in a place, mean "most of them", so there can be some exceptions?

Absolutely! Now you're getting it!

I walked into the library. The people were looking at me.

Indicates that a lot of the people were looking at you. Maybe all of them, but, then again, maybe there's one sullen teenager in the corner who can't pry his eyes out of his sci-fi book, or one librarian who is too busy shelving books to notice you. If you really want to emphasize that every set of eyes was on you, you can say:

I walked into the library. All the people were looking at me.

or:

I walked into the library. Everyone was looking at me.

Even in that last case, though, we need to leave room for hyperbole. For example:

Everyone was drunk at the bar.

is often uttered, when what the native speaker really means is:

A lot of people were drunk at the bar.

  • Thank You for your reply. It is really helpful a lot! I hope this time my commentaries won't last long... :) I have some examples seemed confusing: "I was in the forest. Trees were really dark, clouds were very white" - Everyone expects trees at the forest and understands there can be clouds on the sky there, can I introduce them as a first mention with zero article? Is it grammatical in such context?; and this one "I sat into a car. A driver was funny" - is it OK? Do these examples sound like talking down to? – Nikolay Komolov Dec 11 '14 at 19:04
  • I was in the forest. The trees were really dark, the clouds were very white. It sounds much better if you include the article, but omitting them does not result in incorrect English. – J.R. Dec 12 '14 at 1:19
  • Thank you! If I omit them here, the meaning stays the same - it works as the first mention of all the trees/clouds there? – Nikolay Komolov Dec 12 '14 at 12:57
4
  1. Yes.
  2. "The students" implies a specific group: all the students in the classroom. "Students" is a generic group; it's also not necessarily all students in the classroom.
  3. To achieve that meaning, I would use "Most of the students were paying attention."
  • 1
    Thanks, mooseman. What do you mean by saying general group? I've never heard such a term. I thought that when we talk generally, we have no specific instances of a class in mind. Does "general group" mean "a group of specific instances, with no specified information of how many specific instances we include into the group" ? – Nikolay Komolov Dec 10 '14 at 21:29
  • I think I see what you mean. You mean that "students" can be just a general group of any students, but can also be the first mention of unspecified in quantity group of particular students :) Got it? – Nikolay Komolov Dec 10 '14 at 21:32
  • @NikolayKomolov Exactly. "Students" = general group of unspecified quantity. – Mooseman Dec 10 '14 at 21:35
  • No, I don't understand :( General group = any in the world? So you mean above, that "students" = any/all/some/most in the world? Please, clarify. Thanks. – Nikolay Komolov Dec 10 '14 at 21:39
  • "Students" could mean 3 of "the students" or 30 of "the students". – Mooseman Dec 10 '14 at 21:40

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.