English as a Second Language/The....



Hope you are fine.

 Could you please help me with the following question?
Which one is correct (or perhaps better)? 
"The American government spends billions of dollars a year defending  the rights of other nations and the rights of ....... who cannot defend themselves because they are weak."
a) the people
b) people

I think a) would be correct since it is specified to be not all people but those who cannot defend themselves.

Do you agree?

Thank you for taking the time to help me. Wishing you all the best.

ANSWER: Hi Hame,

yes you are right. The correct option above is a) the people; there is a specific category of people that the sentence talks about.


---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

Thank you for your answer. My friend and I have been talking about the above question. My friend disagree with me. He says THE people is wrong. Below is his explaination. Please read it and let me know what you think of it. Thank you as usual.... Best... Hame

"the people" is completely unacceptable. The reason is that the referent (people who cannot defend themselves because they are weak) in this case is generic, that is, it refers to all members of the category in question. So it is parallel to an expression like "defending the rights of women," in which the absence of any article (definite or indefinite) indicates a generic interpretation.

It's true that the noun phrase specifies a subset of "people"--people who cannot defend themselves because they are weak. But you still can't use "the." If you do, it implies that there is a known set of people who can't defend themselves because they are weak, whereas in fact, that is a huge class of people and we have no idea who they all might be.


I'm not sure I follow your friend's logic but I'll stick to the answer I gave you originally. You are talking about a specific group of people in your sentence

That's nowhere near the same as "defending the rights of women" but more along the lines of "defending the rights of the women who work in XXX industry" which again refers to a specific group of women thus it needs a definite article.


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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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