English as a Second Language/The definite article


Dear Shannon,

Look at these example sentences:

1. Both parents have custody of the child.

2. Control of access to the Internet will be a major project for the computer industry.

3. Companies in Canada pay very high taxes.

4. Students who memorize most of the rules have less trouble understanding and using the articles.

According to the rule, "The" is used before a noun made definite by the addition of a phrase or clause. Like “the boy that I met” and “the girl in blue”. But the examples above do not follow this rule. I very much need to know why “the” is not used before “custody” (1), before “control” (2) , before “companies” (3) and before “students” (4).  I also noted that 1 and 2 use the “of” construction.
Please help me end up my problem with “the”.

Thanks and best regards,

Articles can be very difficult because there are a few cases where they don't follow the rules.  In general, these examples are all generic, rather than specific subjects.

1. Custody is generic and not countable.
2. Control is generic and not specific.
3. Companies is generic.
4. Students is a generic group.

More: http://www.writing.utoronto.ca/advice/english-as-a-second-language/definite-arti  

English as a Second Language

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Shannon Cole


I can answer questions related to learning the English and Spanish language.


I have taught ESL and Spanish since 1998 at the university and middle school levels. I am a native of the U.S., and have taught in both the U.S. and Mexico.

I am owner and operator of www.coleinstitute.com, an online language school.

Georgia TESOL in Action (1999)

B.A. in Spanish; M.Ed. in Language Education

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I have clients worldwide, some who want their documents proofread, and others who take lessons with me through the Internet. Some work at high-profile companies and government organizations. Besides the U.S. and Mexico, my recent students come from South Korea, Switzerland, Turkey, Colombia, Russia, Italy, Paraguay, China, Japan, the Philippines, and Saudi Arabia.

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