If you live in the city, you need to know that everything is noisy.

This "the" could mean both a specific city and a general city?

  • "the city" has a specific city in mind, even if not specified. The implied city could be different in example usages. – user3169 Nov 23 '15 at 19:47

The refers to something specific whether 'general' (generic) or not.

Most likely this sentence refers to a generic city. Thus, the city would be a generic noun phrase, with the as the definite, generic article.

This could be a used, for example to compare life in the (generic) city to live in the (generic) country, with country meaning rural area.

On the average, people in the US live five years longer in the city than they live in the country.

And, likewise, your sentence could be using the city as a definite generic noun phrase.

For the information on generic noun phrases, see Re: A question about the generic use of articles

However, if the speaker is using the city to refer to a non-generic city, such as New York City, then the city is not a generic noun phrase.

Many who live near New York City refer to New York City as the city, and here they are not referring to a generic city. In writing, City would be capitalized, which also clarifies the nature of the noun phrase.

In either case, the refers to something specific.

Unfortunately, many websites use generic and specific as opposites. This is not the case, in technical terms. Thus, a noun phrase can be

1 specific, generic

The city is noisy. I want to live in the country.

The bear is a noisy animal. You can usually hear one before you see one.

2 specific, non-generic

The city of Chicago is windy.

The bear in the small zoo I visited last week is old and fat.

3 non-specific, generic

A city is a noisy place to live in.

A bear protects its young, so avoid getting close to bear cubs.

4 non-specific, non-generic

Name a city in the US with more than one million residents.

A bear of his is loose in the city.

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    @Ranthony you are entitled to your opinion. However, it does not coincide with fact. I suggest you read, the article I mentioned in my answer, as well as the sample sentences in my answer. – user20792 Nov 23 '15 at 17:29
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    @Ranthony You are wrong. My sentence On the average, people in the US live five years longer in the city than they live in the country uses two generic noun phrases: the city and the country. So, as I have said before, the the in the city could refer either to a generic city or to a non-generic city. If the city is one you can visit, it is not generic. – user20792 Nov 23 '15 at 23:24
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    The definite generic - implies a classification - general group, making it distinct from other groups. Hence, the example, 'The tiger is in danger of becoming extinct.' The tiger as an animal, not the elephant, not the rhinoceros, not any other animal. – shin Nov 24 '15 at 5:31
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    This is a very good answer. One small but occasionally important addition, if you are in the UK, "The city" can be as described above, or it can refer to the financial district of the city of London. For example, a news article about shares will often start "in the city, the 100 share index closed up 50 points". If it's used this way, it is usually obvious from context because it will be about financial dealings of some kind. – Joseph Rogers Nov 24 '15 at 7:21
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    @Rathony - In the U.S. there has long been a perceived divide between culture, lifestyle, etc. of those who live in cities vs. those who live in rural areas (a.k.a., 'the country'). Each type of dweller views the other with a mixture of curiosity and contempt. City dwellers see themselves as more educated and progressive, country dwellers see themselves as more practical and possessing more common sense and better moral values. It is, therefore, quite common to refer to 'the city' or 'the country' in generic form. Also, see metrolyrics.com/in-the-city-lyrics-joe-walsh.html – donblanco Dec 1 '15 at 18:46

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