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I have a very quick question. I can't understand whether I should us the definite article with the verb "process" or not.

Context 1: I'm at work and I'm talking to my colleague about what he is doing (processing reports / support tickets). He'll go on holiday soon.

What is the difference between these two sentences? Which is the more correct?

A: Take a break and have fun! I'm sure there will be a lot of time to process reports when you come back.

B: Take a break and have fun! I'm sure there will be a lot of time to process the reports when you come back.

I'm not referring to a particular report but only to all the tons of reports we process in our office, so I would omit the definite article. Do you agree with my choice?

Context 2: I'm at work and I want to reproach a colleague, whose job is to process reports / support tickets. I want to refer to all the reports he that he process in his job, so they are not all the reports everywhere in the world, but I'm not referring only to a specific report.

1) You are making too many mistakes! Please, be very careful when you process the reports! 2) You are making too many mistakes! Please, be very careful when you process reports!

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  • Both look fine to me. – GEdgar Jul 4 '16 at 17:35
  • They mean different things. – Hot Licks Jul 4 '16 at 17:39
  • What is the more correct one in your opinion? What does each mean? – user180671 Jul 4 '16 at 17:42
  • They mean different things. Each is equally "correct", in the proper context. Think about the difference in meaning between "reports" and "the reports". – Hot Licks Jul 4 '16 at 17:43
  • (I do have difficulty finding a good reference for this point. Perhaps someone would like to contribute a good answer?) (Alas, people tend to think my answers are no good.) – Hot Licks Jul 4 '16 at 17:47
2

Sigh!

Since no one wants to provide an answer --

I'm sure there will be a lot of time to process reports when you come back.

"Reports" here is something akin to a "mass noun" (there must be an "official" term, but I don't know it) -- it refers to multiple instances of the generic "report", with nothing to distinguish them.

I'm sure there will be a lot of time to process the reports when you come back.

"The reports" refers to a specific set of reports which have presumably been previously discussed or are otherwise known about in the context of the discussion.

This difference is somewhat similar to the choice of using "a" or "the" when referring to a single entity -- you use "a" (the indefinite article) for a generic and "the" (the definite article) for a specific instance. When doing the same calculus for plural entities you still use "the" for a specific set of entities, but no article at all for a generic set of entities.

In some uses this distinction would be irrelevant with respect to meaning, but in other cases it could be quite significant.

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