Grammar: Using THE with common and abstract nouns

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Learn English with Rebecca [engVid]
Published at : 25 Oct 2020
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An abstract noun is a word that means a general concept or idea, like "life" or "friendship". We can use "the" with common nouns, as in "the sky is blue". But can we use "the" with abstract nouns? For example, would you say "happiness is important" or "the happiness is important"? If you are not sure, watch this lesson to learn when to use "the" with general and abstract nouns. Don't forget to take the quiz afterwards to test your understanding!
http://www.engvid.com/grammar-the-common-abstract-nouns/

TRANSCRIPT

Hi. I'm Rebecca from engVid. Many English learners have trouble deciding when to use "the" or no "the", so I understand that problem, I know it can be a little bit confusing, but I believe that by the end of this lesson, you're going to find it much easier. Okay?

So let's start with a little quiz first to see where you stand regarding that word "the". So, let's look at this first example. Should you say: "Life is beautiful." or "The life is beautiful."? Okay. Think about it. Decide. Another one: "Friendship is precious." or "The friendship is precious."? Which one is right? Think for yourself. We'll do one more, and then I'll give you the answers. "Happiness is important." or "The happiness is important."? Which one is correct? Do you know? How do you know?

How do you decide which one is right? I'll tell you. When we're talking about something which is a general concept or idea, then we do not use "the". Okay? For example, let's take the first one. "Life is beautiful." Now, life is a general concept, so we do not need "the". So, this is the correct answer. All right? Not this. "Life is beautiful." Because life is a general idea, a general concept. Okay? We're not talking about anything specific. If we say: "The life of wise people is beautiful." that is something specific, and then we would be correct to say: "The life". Okay? But if we're just talking in general, then no "the".

Let's look at the next example. "Friendship is precious." Again, friendship is a general idea or a general concept, so this is correct. Okay? In this example, this one was wrong. But if I said, for example: "The friendship between those two children is precious." then that would be fine, because now I'm specifying which friendship. Right? The friendship between those two children, so then it becomes specific, and then we would use "the". But in this example, this is correct. Okay? Just like this was, and this is wrong, because this is a general idea. Okay?

Next one: "Happiness is important." By now you know, again, happiness is a general idea, a general concept, so this is correct. In this example, it would be wrong to say: "The happiness", because: The happiness of what? So, if we say: "The happiness of my family is important." that's fine. That's very good. That would be a perfect sentence. But in this case, we cannot say: "The happiness is important." because we didn't specify which happiness. Okay? So, in this case, that's wrong, and this is correct. Okay?

Now, the same principle applies to these. See if you can figure it out. Okay? "I want to make money." or "I want to make the money."? Which one do you think is right? Are we speaking in general, or are we speaking specifically? Well, we are speaking in general right now, so this is correct, because we're just talking about money; we didn't say which money. I want to make money. Right? General idea. If I said, for example: "I want to make the money I need to pay my rent." that's specific, so then I could say: "the money", because I'm explaining after that which money. Okay? But in this example, no.

Next one: "She wants to lose weight." or "She wants to lose the weight."? Is it general or is it specific? What do you think? It's still general. Good. By now you're getting really smart. "She wants to lose weight." is a general term. Right? We're just talking about weight in general; not any specific weight. But if I say: "She wants to lose the weight she put on during the holidays." that's specific, and then I need "the". Okay? But not in this example.

So, last one here: "He needs to earn respect." or do we say: "He needs to earn the respect."? Is it general or is it specific? By now you know, you'll really know. It's general. Very good. Okay? Because we didn't talk about any specific respect; we're talking about respect in general. So: "He needs to earn respect." But if this was being used, it would be something like: "He needs to earn the respect of his peers." Peers are people your age. Okay? Or: "He needs to earn the respect of his employees." for example, or "of his parents". Then it becomes specific. Which respect? The respect of his parents, the respect of his employees. All right?

So, if it was specific, then we could say "the", but when we're just talking in general, we don't need "the". "Life is beautiful.", "Friendship is precious.", "Happiness is important.", "I want to make money.", "She wants to lose weight.", "He needs to earn respect."
EnglishESLEnglish grammar

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