Omitting the article before defining relative clause



We use the definite article before defining a relative clause when we mean specific instances— this is a well-known rule. What if we omit an article in order to say something in a more general way, but assuming specific instances, when the context makes it clear.


Computers that are now in this room, are powerful.

Is this grammatically correct? Would it be correct even if it was the second mention of computers?

Would it mean that I talk about those specific computers, but just with general sense? I interpret this as they are mostly powerful, and there might be some that are not. As I understand it, saying "the computers" will imply all of them. Is having no article appropriate here or should I use "some", "most", etc., instead?


Nikolay Komolov

Posted 2014-10-30T08:28:12.007

Reputation: 689

LC: I like the pizza on your plate could mean I have tasted the pizza on your plate, and I like it. Similarly, I like the bow in your hair means I have seen the bow in your hair, and I like it. Compare with I like pizza on your plate would mean I prefer that pizza is on your plate which is a rather odd thing to say. Similar to I like bows in your hair means I enjoy seeing your hair with (one or more) bows. or I like it when you wear bows (or "a bow") in your hair. – CoolHandLouis – 2015-03-24T10:51:20.260

1In general, one could say "Tigers are powerful", for that would be a general statement, without reference to any specific tiger (like me). One could say "All tigers are powerful", which would include me. One could say "Some tigers are powerful", and no specific tiger is being directly referred to. But if you said *"The tigers that are in this room are powerful"*, then we know that all those tigers that are currently in your room are powerful tigers; if you said "Some of the tigers that are in this room are powerful", then only some of the previously mentioned tigers are powerful. – F.E. – 2014-10-30T09:23:00.503

Thanks)) And if to say "Tigers that are now in this room are powerful", what will it convey? Will it imply specific tigers that are now in the room? – Nikolay Komolov – 2014-10-30T09:25:20.697

I think that might be ungrammatical. It sounds a bit unusual to my ear. I would expect to hear "The tigers that are now in this room are powerful". – F.E. – 2014-10-30T09:26:03.063

I see. So saying "I like people in my village" is not grammatical, so I should say "the/some people"? – Nikolay Komolov – 2014-10-30T09:28:57.397

No, what you said is a general statement, and it is fine. It is similar to "I like pizza". – F.E. – 2014-10-30T09:30:28.297

In your original question, you are talking about a specific set of computers: *the computers* that are currently in your room. – F.E. – 2014-10-30T09:33:04.900

Actually, *"I like people in my village"* is saying something different from *"I like the people in my village"*. The first is saying that you prefer to have a village that is populated by people. The second is saying that you like those specific people that are currently living in your village. – F.E. – 2014-10-30T09:36:24.607

If I say "I like pizza", then that is a general statement. But if I say *"I like the pizza that is on your plate"*, then that means that I'm going to steal your pizza when you aren't looking. – F.E. – 2014-10-30T09:40:29.387

Thanks for clearing it up. Let me ask: "I like the people in my village" strictly means I like them all? "I like some of the people in my village" - I like some of those specific people? "I like some people in my village" - I like when there are any unspecified people in my village? Did I get it right? – Nikolay Komolov – 2014-10-30T10:02:32.320

"I like the people in my village" strictly means I like them all? <== No, it doesn't necessarily mean that you like all the people. (Though, you might like all of them.) It means that, overall, that considered as a group, those people are such that you like them, as a group of people -- though there might be a few individuals that you might not like. – F.E. – 2014-10-30T10:06:24.350



For the second mention of computers, I don't think it'll work without the definite article. I have observed such instances when I check my articles on Grammarly (paid), MS Office (licensed) and other tools.

As far as the sentence in quote is concerned, it's fine. Computers that are now in this room are powerful. But I'm afraid, it may not convey the message that you think of.

You said that you want to talk about the specific computers which are powerful. I'd tell it this way -

Some computers in this room are powerful (which'll automatically convey the meaning that others are not)

If I say...

The computers in this room are powerful

It'll mean that all the computers present in this room are powerful, leaving none.

Furthermore, zero article would imply computers in general. You may say...

Computers are powerful machines

[Side note: I had read that inventions take the definite article. Said that, it is 'the computer', 'the telephone'. But I don't believe it's an ironclad rule.]

Maulik V

Posted 2014-10-30T08:28:12.007

Reputation: 66 188


When you say something like /computers/ without an article, you then say something general. It doesn't mean the blue computers or the white one. it means all computers.

When you use an article, say, /the computers/, you know (definite) which computers are being talked about.

don magug

Posted 2014-10-30T08:28:12.007

Reputation: 101