General Writing and Grammar Help/THE challenges

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Question
Hello

Hope you are fine. I found an article at Yahoo. It reads:

"High school fees, waiting lists and registration costs have made the headlines in the UAE in the last few weeks. Looking for a school is one of the most stressful experiences many parents face in the UAE. Souqalmal.com has spoken to 850 parents to understand THE challenges they face in choosing the right education for their kids."

Here is my question: Is the use of  the article "the" in front of "challeneges" correct? I think it is WRONG because we are not talking about any specific challenges.

What do you think?

Thank you

Answer
First, before answering, the author did not punctuate the paragraph correctly.

When listing three or more, a comma must proceed each of the list:

"High school fees, waiting lists and registration costs, have made headlines.........." 1) high school fees 2) waiting lists 3) registration costs....

To answer your question, the sentence is wrong to begin with!

You cannot say: " has spoken to 850 parents "to" understand the challenges..."

It should be: "has spoken to 850 parents about understanding the challenges...."

Actually, there is no need to place any article there:

"High school fees, waiting lists and registration costs, have made the headlines in the UAE in the last few weeks. Looking for a school is one of the most stressful experiences many parents face in the UAE. Souqalmal.com has spoken to 850 parents about understanding challenges they face in choosing the right education for their kids."

See the difference? It is grammaticality correct and flows much better. Rule is; less words; less articles (when not absolutely needed) proper sentence structure, and proper punctuation, makes it flow.

You can, however, use "the" before "challenges" even though you are thinking of a definite article, which is true, the use of "the challenges" is actually "definite challenges." It refers to "challenges" of school, a definite challenge even though plural meaning many challenges associated with school. If it were to say "a challenge" it would refer to a single, specific challenge which would be incorrect in this context.

Challenges can mean challenges of anything; general challenges in life= no specific challenge in no specific category. Understand?

The proper use of articles is the most difficult for a non-English speaking learner to understand.

You have a tendency to "over-think" the articles..... Keep the though and rule simple: the use of article "the" is used for specific definite nouns in that "category" and the use of the article "a" is indefinite and non-specific nouns many any and all of anything..........

Now, I would like to address another problem. Just because you read something, does not mean the grammar and punctuation and even sentence structure is correct, English speaker or not.

Also, Souqalmal.com and the UAE are non-English websites with non-English (first language natives) speakers. Authors' translations into English, can be extremely incorrect. I don't know which one of the websites you read that particle article on, hosted on Yahoo.com, but I found about four different websites that the article was on in a Yahoo search.

The article was also on Maktoob which is an Arabic social network creating another problem of English grammar and translation. It features the article but does not list the author or source!  

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Jannie Balliett

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Any question relating to writing and grammar. I will repeat, questions only-- not discussions or editing. If you need editing, visit my editorial site; http://a1editorial.net. I do not help with homework nor English classes. This is much too involved and I will not "explain" English to non-English speakers. Please rate. If you do not rate, I will need to ban you from my expertise.

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I m a professional editor and published writer.

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