according to (article/no article) noun


Example with a context (How to Write Doc Comments for the Javadoc Tool):

If you must document implementation-specific behavior, please document it in a separate paragraph with a lead-in phrase that makes it clear it is implementation-specific. If the implementation varies according to platform, then specify "On " at the start of the paragraph.

A few months ago I asked a similar question on this forum and somebody said that it is absolutely necessary that there be an article in front of the noun when you use the expression according to something. So, my question to you is does the way they have it written in that tech article sound totally wrong to you? I think I've seen many situations where the article was omitted. I don't even know what to think.

Michael Rybkin

Posted 2015-06-12T03:31:03.510

Reputation: 37 124


I suspect that it will vary according to the meaning somewhat, but I'm not finding a solid pattern. I can't think of an example where using the article would be wrong, but as you say, there are many cases where it is omitted and still correct.

– Jason Patterson – 2015-06-12T03:37:57.253

Police is a plural noun. It can be used with/without "the", especially when you refer to the department. – Khan – 2015-06-12T04:20:38.757



The difference is in the two different meanings of according to: corresponding with and it is claimed by .

In your first example:

  1. If the implementation varies according to platform...

"according to" means "corresponding with", thus:

  1. If the implementation varies corresponding with platform...

That is to say, if there are different implementations for different platforms. It does not mean If (a/the) platform claims that implementation varies, which is the other meaning.

Your other example:

  1. According to a new design specification from the Military-Industrial Commission in Moscow...

Does not mean "corresponding with", it means "it is claimed by":

  1. It is claimed by a new design specification from the Military-Industrial Commission in Moscow...

The difference is that in the "corresponding with" sense, "platform" is not a specific thing, but the property of another thing (a system). So it works like the word "color":

Do you like the color of this dress?

(i.e. The dress has one specific but unspecified color: do you like it?)

I generally like color in clothes.

(i.e. No black-and-white for me, I prefer clothing have color as a property.)


Posted 2015-06-12T03:31:03.510

Reputation: 8 207


It's 100% correct and natural in your tech article.

The usage referred to in this current question/answer is "Y varies according to X". This is a math-like/logical meaning, indicating a correlation where X is the domain (horizontal axis) and Y is the range (vertical axis). This is used to relate one set of things to another set.

This is widely used in scientific studies to describe a correlation between discrete or continuous variables. See Google Search "varies according to" for a ton of examples. Here's a few:

A famous use of this is seen in the Marxist quote, "From each according to his ability, to each according to his need" (first used by Louis Blanc in 1851, later popularized by Karl Marx).

As used in your other question, it means "as stated by". Note that the idea of "correlation" is still valid, but it's trivial because it's correlation by definition... "because it said so". For those technically inclined, it's

  • Sales(report) = down

I'm not convinced that your other question was answered comprehensively. It sounds natural to me that, when the plural is used, one can drop the article. "According to rumors, he is going to run for president." This is especially true for news-speak. I've added a few comments to that other question.


Posted 2015-06-12T03:31:03.510

Reputation: 7 937


The example itself is not referring to a specific platform or group of platforms, so it would be considered a unspecified mass noun and no article is needed.

If we knew we were talking about Windows 7 and MacOS, then you could say:

If the implementation varies according to the platform (Windows 7 or MacOS), then specify "On" at the start of the paragraph.

( ) optional, just for emphasis.


Posted 2015-06-12T03:31:03.510

Reputation: 29 679