Using the definite article in "I love the people who make me laugh."

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What's the difference between the two following sentences and which one is grammatical? Should I use the definite article in the second sentence?

  1. I love people who make me laugh.
  2. I love the people who make me laugh.

Please note that I am talking about people in general and I have no specific people in my mind.

user254288

Posted 2018-05-02T13:11:04.613

Reputation: 1 056

7Including the article more strongly implies that there's a specific identifiable class of people who make the speaker laugh, and he knows who they are - even though his audience probably wouldn't be able to identify those people themselves, so they're not really a "known" group as would be relevant in structurally similar contexts where the article might or might not be included. Apart from that, idiomatically, OP's second version would be relatively uncommon compared to the first one. – FumbleFingers Reinstate Monica – 2018-05-02T13:49:05.513

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...compare 389 hits in Google Books for I hate people who do that with just 4 instances of I hate the people who do that (one of which is obviously from a nns, and another appears to be a grammar text advising against using the article).

– FumbleFingers Reinstate Monica – 2018-05-02T13:54:25.343

3In practice, most native speakers would probably say both your examples have "the same" meaning - it's just that the second is far less common. But comparing, say I know people who hate you to *I know the people who hate you*, nearly everyone would agree that the first version implies the addressee doesn't know who those people are (and might well not even have been aware that any such people exist), whereas the second version is only appropriate when both conversants know perfectly well that those haters exist (but possibly the addressee doesn't know *who* they are). – FumbleFingers Reinstate Monica – 2018-05-02T14:26:58.800

1@FumbleFingers I agree with everything you said but those low instances of "I hate people who do that" does not in fact reflect the reality of that usage. One hears that everywhere and all the time. It's the same as; "I love ballet dancers who do the movement like that." that way versus "I love the ballet dancers [in the Bolshoi] who do the movement like that.". As you rightly point out, the the refers to fact the speakers are referring to a specific case. For me, this is a general principle. Why not put in an answer? – Lambie – 2018-05-02T14:49:07.703

@Lambie: There are various subtly different contexts, and I'm not confident I could reliably identify all of them. As I said, few native speakers would assume any difference in meaning for OP's exact example, but they would definitely know which one was more idiomatic. On the other hand, I'd say there's absolutely nothing to choose between a politician including the article or not in, say, I want [the] people who voted for me to know they can trust me, either semantically or idiomatically. – FumbleFingers Reinstate Monica – 2018-05-02T16:14:47.270

1I think the "the" versus no "the" is a general English rule and works in most contexts. When I taught English to law students, that is one rule I taught them. In fact, I had an ELL legal texbook that had an entire chapter on the use of the. I wish I still had that textbook. I think there is a big difference in meaning and a native speaker would know which one to use (all other things remaining equal). "The criminals we apprehended yesterday" is not "Criminals apprehended this week", just an example. – Lambie – 2018-05-02T16:32:24.377

@Lambie: Sure. There are many contexts where there's definitely a difference in meaning and/or only one version normally occurs. And there's certainly a general principle that including the article tends to imply "known category" (to everyone, one or both conversants, etc.). But as I hope I've shown by my examples, that basic principle doesn't meaningfully cover all use cases. – FumbleFingers Reinstate Monica – 2018-05-02T16:52:40.827

Answers

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The last line of yours changed my answer.

So, if you are talking about people in general, put no article.

Things (animate or inanimate) in general take zero article. And, that's how it is!

I love people who make me laugh.

Anyway, you are defining people by telling that you like those who make you laugh.

When in dilemma, take another example and decide!

I love cars over I love the cars.

Good read is her (BBC)

Maulik V

Posted 2018-05-02T13:11:04.613

Reputation: 66 188

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If you are talking about people in general, than use no article. If you would like to mention specific people (from your class, family etc.), than use the definite article.

Jana Šklíbová

Posted 2018-05-02T13:11:04.613

Reputation: 51

This is a repeat of the May 2 answer. Please don't do that, upvote that answer if you agree. – None – 2018-06-10T09:26:08.957