Should we use articles before nouns that are not fully generalized?

For example: "the birds of America" or "birds of America"?

We are considering not all birds, but all American birds.
So what is the truth? "American birds" or "the American birds"?

  • 1
    This totally depends on what you want from the phrase to present. Am I right? Language is far wider than you and me can imagine! I can give you examples where both are correct.
    – M.A.R.
    Jan 7, 2015 at 19:41
  • I think that constructing some complete sentences as examples would be helpful. Maybe your confusion is not about when to use articles but about how adding an adjective affects how you understand the noun.
    – ColleenV
    Jan 7, 2015 at 21:30

1 Answer 1


They have no nationality, so we do not call them "American birds". They are "birds of America".

We could entitle a book Birds of America but when speaking of those birds as a group, we would use the definite article:

The birds of America include seed-eaters, insect-eaters, raptors, and scavengers.

But if we were speaking of an ornithological area of study, we might say:

"Birds of America" would be too broad a subject for a PhD dissertation. You will have to find a narrower topic.

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