pick up <the> trash

Silver

Senior Member
Chinese,Cantonese,Sichuan dialect
Hi,

I've been using "pick up trash" for a while and I'm pretty sure the term is natural, as in my previous sentence:

I pick up trash along the riveside once a week.

But I also notice that "pick up the trash" has around 300,000 results in Google.

I wonder if I can use the interchangeably?

I pick up the trash along the riverside once a week.

Thanks a lot
 
  • PaulQ

    Banned
    UK
    English - England
    In "I pick up trash.", trash is uncountable. It indicates the concept of trash; trash in all its forms; trash in general; non-specific trash
    In "I pick up the trash.", the is working as a demonstrative adjective. It is similar to "that."

    Adding any adjective to an uncountable noun makes the uncountable noun specific:

    I like wine.
    I like the wine you have given me.

    You use the to be specific. You use "the" when
    you have already spoken about the noun
    or
    You have described or will describe the noun next
    or
    everyone is aware of the noun

    In your specific example, you can say either.
     

    Silver

    Senior Member
    Chinese,Cantonese,Sichuan dialect
    It's becoming clear.....

    If I say:

    I pick up trash once a week. (This is natural and correct.)
    I pick up the trash once a week. (Absolute wrong.)

    Am I right?
     

    Myridon

    Senior Member
    English - US
    I pick up the trash once a week. (Absolutely wrong.)
    This can be quite correct in context. You pick up the specific trash which is known to accumulate there (the place which is in context) every week.
    The first sentence works if you go to a different place each week to pick up random trash, but we would use the second sentence if you are talking about what you do at your house, for example.
     

    Silver

    Senior Member
    Chinese,Cantonese,Sichuan dialect
    Thanks a lot, SD, Myridon.

    I haven't made myself clear. I meant, can these two sentences stand alone? I guess not.

    I pick up trash once a week. (This is natural and correct.)
    I pick up the trash once a week. (Absolute wrong.)

    My second question is based on Myridon's comments, I hope anyone reads here can help me:

    The first sentence works if you go to a different place each week to pick up random trash,
    The sole place I currently do that volunteer job is my grandmother's hometown. This could be one place. But my grandmother's town is big, I pick up trash in mountains, places around some elementary schools, one industrial zone, and so on. These are different places. Should I include "the" or not, I think it's optional.

    Thanks a lot
     

    suzi br

    Senior Member
    English / England
    You have been told by various of us that "the" is optional in your context.

    On the other hand, trash is firmly American in this context - I would pick up litter!
     

    suzi br

    Senior Member
    English / England
    There's nothing un-American about "litter," but it usually consists of items smaller than "trash.":)
    Aye, litter does denote smaller things here too. If you are out collecting scrap metal type/ big junk along the riverside you'd probably say "rubbish" in the UK.
     

    Parla

    Member Emeritus
    English - US
    If I pick up the trash along a roadside, I pick up all of it. If I pick up trash, that's what I'm picking up, but I'm making no effort to get it all.

    And if I'm just strolling along with a pick-up tool and a plastic bag, it's probably litter I'm picking up; for trash, I'd need a truck.
     
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