I have the following sentence:

The next section provides the background and motivation for our work, which is described in Section 3.

First I don't know if "the" before "background" is required.

But mainly I don't know if the "motivation" also needs "the"?

Can we say in conjunction if the first part has an article the second one doesn't need it?

  • 3
    No need to repeat the article, but you do need to change "is described" to "are described" (although you should decide between "next section" and "Section 3"). The background and motivation for our work are described in Section 3. I should also add that "for" doesn't go equally well with "background" and "motivation", and since they're much the same thing, you could probably dispense with "background". – Tᴚoɯɐuo Jun 21 '15 at 14:23
  • @TRomano "which" and "is" refer to "our work", the motivation and background are in "next section", and the "work" is described in section 3. Doesn't the sentence convey this meaning? – Ahmad Jun 21 '15 at 14:30
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    Not clearly. Make two sentences, or rearrange the clauses. Try making "motivation" the subject using a passive construction, or try using a parenthetic. Having next section and Section 3 in the same sentence is confusing. – Tᴚoɯɐuo Jun 21 '15 at 14:48
  • I think the sentence is very confusing; it doesn't need a conjunction. You can say the next section 3 describes the background and motivation for our work. – Khan Jun 21 '15 at 19:15

One of the interpretations of the definite article is what is necessary for a specific task or goal:

I want to write a book, but I don't have the time.

(= time needed to write a book)

I would mow the lawn myself if I had the strength.

(= necessary strength to mow the lawn)

He could be a great manager, but he lacks the initiative and motivation.

(= initiative and motivation needed to become a manager)

We need a bigger house, but we don't have the money right now.

(= the money needed to buy a house; enough money to buy a house)

If you remove the definite article from the above sentences, they are a general statement about a quality these people lack, but not related to any specific goal. The definite article links these qualities with the stated task specifically. For example, in the last sentence, ", but we don't have money right now" implies they don't have money for anything, whereas "the money" refers specifically to the amount needed for a house.

  • >He could be a great manager, but he lacks the initiative and the motivation. Does adding an extra definite article after and change meaning? – Anubhav Singh Aug 7 '17 at 17:35
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    No, it's the same principle, only compounded. – CocoPop Aug 7 '17 at 17:41
  • What does compounded mean? – Anubhav Singh Aug 8 '17 at 9:48
  • compounded simply means more elements are added using "and" – CocoPop Aug 8 '17 at 14:47

There is no confusion about the way your sentence is written - subject and verb are in agreement.

The question of whether to use the depends on what you have placed in "the next section".

If you think that you have thoroughly described your background and motivation and left out nothing, then the is used correctly. Inclusion of a second the before motivation is optional, does not change the meaning, and would generally be omitted.

If you had more background that you could have included and were more motivated than you shared, the should not be used. Its omission implies that you are sharing some of the background and motivation but you are not claiming to have shared everything.

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