11

For some reason I feel its overkilling on the use of article(the) here,

To refine the results, please use the categories on the left

Can someone help?

  • 3
    In my opinion, the phrases: (1) 'the results' refers to the specific results that will be refined; (2) 'the categories', refers to the specific (provided) categories; and, (3), 'the left' refers to the specific side (i.e., not the right side, not the top, etc.). So, I don't think the word 'the' is overused. – shin Dec 1 '15 at 15:33
  • 1
    You can add it as the answer. – uday Dec 1 '15 at 15:42
  • 6
    As a native speaker, leaving out any of the three "the"s would sound wrong. – Todd Wilcox Dec 1 '15 at 17:14
  • 7
    Did you know that the most common word in the English Language is "the"? It's such a common word, that even stating that it is the most common word, requires several uses of the word "the", which I think is hilarious. – DJMcMayhem Dec 1 '15 at 18:35
  • 5
    As a native speaker, "the" disappears completely into the background for me. I don't know your native language to draw a comparison. On a quick read through I didn't even acknowledge the second two to the point that I thought, "One 'the' is hardly overkill." – Azor Ahai Dec 1 '15 at 21:04
23

In my opinion, the phrases:

  1. 'the results' - refers to the specific results that will be refined;
  2. 'the categories', - refers to the specific (provided) categories; and,
  3. 'the left' - refers to the specific side (i.e., not the right side, not the top, etc.).

So, I don't think the word 'the' is overused.

6

As others have said, your sentence is fine, as-is.

However, you might change it to "To refine your results, please use the categories on the left."

This would mitigate your concerns with the repeated "the".

  • Was thinking the same thing. Even though the original sentence is correct, this could alleviate the thought of too many "the"s in the sentence. – Tim S. Dec 1 '15 at 23:44
5

As a native speaker, I can definitely say 'the' is not overused in this sentence. The is one of the most common words in the English language, so often in fact you might use the word 'the' over 5,000 times in one day.

  • 1
    When I read this answer, I couldn't help but think of the Knights who say Ni, and their aversion to the word "it". – Tim S. Dec 1 '15 at 23:46
1

@shin is correct, the sentence is fine. To refine results, please use categories on the left. is equivalent, but the difference is stylistic.

  • what do you mean by "stylistic"? – uday Dec 1 '15 at 15:43
  • @uDaY: purely focussing on the way the sentence looks, not changing its grammar nor its meaning. – Michael Dec 1 '15 at 15:47
  • Note that if the sentence was, say, To refine query, please use categories on the left it wouldn't sound nearly as good. I would leave in the even with results. So.. To refine the results please use the categories on the left. Also, leaving out the before categories also sounds off. – Insane Dec 1 '15 at 15:49
  • 2
    It's really difficult to overkill the use of "the", minimal worry for sounding non-native – Peter Dec 1 '15 at 16:02
  • 3
    I would call this answer an abbreviated sentence, the kind one often finds in newspaper headlines, or instances where space is at a premium, such as signs or instructions on a computer screen. Without the normal English grammatical features, it can lead to ambiguous sentences. Technically the answer could be interpreted to refer to any set of results and some generic set of categories in an unspecified 'leftish' place. Additionally these terse sentences can lead to silly interpretations of newspaper headlines, such as some listed here: littlecalamity.tripod.com/Text/Newspaper.html – user151841 Dec 1 '15 at 17:19
1

@shin is correct. "The" is used three times in the sentence. Each time "the" is used, the word that follows "the" gets qualified, becomes specific. The sentence is ok. There is no overuse of "the".

-1

Being strict, it depends on context.

If this message is an instruction provided before any results have been presented, then "the results" doesn't quite make sense because "the" is the definite article. That means "the results" refers to a specific set of results. Which specific results? If results don't already exist, it's not clear. I'll likely assume you're talking about "the results [of the next search]". I'd be right, so you'd still be communicating successfully, but it's not ideal.

On the other hand, if the message doesn't appear until after a search is performed and some results (especially a large number of them) are presented, it would work perfectly because "the results" refers to a specific set of results that exist in context.

-2

Technically, the sentence is correct but the is overused. I would rearrange the sentence to say "Refine results using the categories on the left". It removes a couple of words and also makes it a more active sentence. Also when writing instructions, avoid using please. These are instructions for performing a task and not a request so the word please is not necessary.

protected by Community Dec 1 '15 at 21:42

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