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English as a Second Language/Definite article or possesive adjective


Dear Amy,

I am translating some sentences (From Arabic) about directions for use (a product) to my friend and I need your guidelines:

1. Wash the hands before you touch and open the cream pack. Is "the hands" correct, or must I say "wash your hands"?
2. We advise to use a cream to scrub the heels. Is "the heels" correct and understood, or must I say "the heels of the/your feet"?
3. Take around 2-3 ml of shampoo cream, and wash your hair for 3 minutes. Is "Your fair" corret or must I say "the hair"?

This is a lot confusion for me. Please guide me.

Best regards

Hi Antoine,

thank you for your question.

Here is how I'd phrase those sentences:

1. Wash your hands before you (touch and) open the cream (lotion) pack. (I'd skip the "touch" as presumably you can only open the pack only if you touch it, so I'd say "touch" is redundant).

2. We advise you to use a cream to scrub your heels/feet.

2. Take around 2-3 mL of shampoo and wash your hair for 3 minutes.

I'd say that posesive adjectives should be used in all of the above sentences as they are all meant to give some guidelines/instructions to someone, therefore the message should be specific -intended for the user of the lotion/shampoo/scrub. By using "the" instead of "your", the message would be a bit vague, or maybe too general.

I've read quite a lot of labels with instructions for using different beauty products, and not only :) and the manufacturers want to make sure that their message is "personal" to some extent, therefore the use of "your".

I hope this helps.

Please feel free to get back to me if you require further clarifications.

Best regards,


English as a Second Language

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Amy Baker


I can answer question about grammar, spelling, syntax, idioms, reading and/or writing that pertain to English as a Second Language. I am knowledgeable about both TOEFL and IELTS.


I'm a certified ESL teacher with 12 years of experience teaching K-12 and adults.

BSc MEd TESL post grad program for k-12 TESL post grad program for adult ed

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