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I have a question. Which of the following sentences is correct? Please explain your reasons.

a) THE prison dehumanizes people.

b) A prison dehumanizes people.

c) Prison dehumanizes people.

I personally think both a) and b) are correct because the word "prison" is singular, so it needs an article in front of it.

What do you think? Do you agree?

Thank you

ANSWER: They are all correct, but a) has a somewhat different meaning in that it may refer to a specific prison, whereas b) and c) may refer to prison more as a general concept. Of the 2, c) would probably be the preferred construction in making the more general observation.

Hope this helps.

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

QUESTION: Thank you very much. So, you say that option C) is also correct.

You know, the use of article "the" has caused a lot of difficulties for me. Let me ask you a follow up question.

Which option is correct?

a) What are some bad effects of stress on THE body?
b) What are some bad effects of stress on body?

I am sure you will say that a) is correct because the word "body" needs an article in front of it. But why b) is not correct?

Thank you


The use of articles in English is an area in which there is some ambiguity, but in this example the noun "body" does require a determiner before it. I suppose the best answer as to why is that the addition of the article makes it clear the speaker knows which body (or in this case probably class of bodies) is being referenced. In any event, no native speaker would produce b).

Hope this helps.

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Dan Smith


I have been a professional writer and editor for more than 30 years, taught speech and English composition at the university level, and have developed speech and English composition courses and seminars for businesses. I am experienced in editing a wide variety of materials, especially business, scientific, and other academic papers. I am familiar with all the major style guides.


I have edited any number of graduate papers and other technical materials in such advanced fields as civil and electrical engineering and semiconductor fabrication. I have extensive experience in working with non-native English speakers.

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