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This question may seem very elementary, but because I have very problem in using "the", I like to get an admission

I have the following sentence:

We try to simulate the way a user finds the desired data by scanning and blocking the page based on [the?] textual delimiters.

Can we use "the" before adjective noun phrases with this reason that the adjective makes the noun specific? Is it such a rule?

I mean for example "the textual delimiters" (not other type of delimiters). However, I guess it could be sated without "the" too, in that case what it means which would be different with its meaning with "the"?

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  • What do you mean the adjective makes the noun specific? Which adjective?
    – user6951
    Jun 21, 2015 at 19:54
  • @pazzo, yes I guessed so! if they do, then I thought its OK to use "the" before the phrase!!?
    – Ahmad
    Jun 21, 2015 at 19:56
  • It is not the function of adjectives to make make nouns more specific.
    – user6951
    Jun 21, 2015 at 19:58

1 Answer 1

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There's a significant difference here. If you use the definite article the you're talking about specific textual delimiters used to block the site. Without the article you're simply stating how you're blocking the site (through the use of textual delimiters).

Allow me to clarify the difference through a simpler sentence:

  • The cat often steals children's toys.
  • The cat often steals the children's toys.

In the first sentence you say that the cat often steals toys that are normally used by children. The second sentence however, states that the cat often steals toys that belong to specific children that were either talked about earlier or are known in the context.

The difference in your sentence is the same. Are you talking about the use of textual delimiters in general? Then use the zero article. Are you talking about the use of specific textual delimiters? Then use the definite article the.

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  • Thank you, I specially asked about using "the" before adjective + noun phrases. What if I want to speak about "the textual delimiters" meaning not "the visual delimiters". I don't mean a specific textual delimiters, but I mean "the textual ----- delimiters". However I think I meant it without "the". I asked it in general about adjective constructions and your example wasn't in that direction.
    – Ahmad
    Jun 21, 2015 at 19:53
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    If you're just trying to make a distinction between textual delimiters and visual delimiters, it does not matter which article you use. The word textual or visual already specifies the 'type' of delimiters.
    – Vlammuh
    Jun 21, 2015 at 20:02
  • However, if you want to emphasize the fact that the delimiters are not textual you could say: ...non-visual textual delimiters.
    – Vlammuh
    Jun 21, 2015 at 20:03
  • Thank you, it seems the adjective when they are definitive doesn't need a "the", and using "the" would mean a known (or mentioned) ones. For example "black color" = "the black color" and the is extra
    – Ahmad
    Jun 21, 2015 at 20:05
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    The definite article the does not modify the adjective. It modifies the noun. The adjective also modifies the noun. Articles never modify adjectives, since adjectives never take an article. Articles only modify nouns or noun phrases.
    – Vlammuh
    Jun 21, 2015 at 20:11

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