(The) prisoners get up at 06:00

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Agrippa

Member
France - French
Hello, fellow "forumites"!

I am describing an overseas prison. No prior reference to its prisoners has been made. The sentence (my first mention of its prisoners):

The prisoners get up at 06:00.

English offers two options:
1. The prisoners get up at 06:00.
2. Prisoners get up at 06:00.

I know that if I am referring to a subset or a particular group I have in mind, then I should add the definite article. If it's all of them or I don't have anyone particular in mind, the article gets dropped.

But in the case above, the prisoners can be either.
It can be a subset, for I mean: The prisoners [at that overseas prison] get up at 06:00. So, #1.
Or I may make it a generalization: [All] prisoners [at that prison] get up at 06:00. So, #2

My conclusion is that it's really up to me, and neither one is more correct than the other. Could you kindly confirm?

Thank you for all and any help.
 
  • JamesM

    Senior Member
    I'm not sure that there is a definite rule, but I would tend to use "The prisoners" in your context. If you had mentioned that guards got up at 5:00 in a previous sentence then you wouldn't need the definite article, because it would be "Prisoners (as opposed to guards) get up at..."
     

    Agrippa

    Member
    France - French
    I'm not sure that there is a definite rule, but I would tend to use "The prisoners" in your context. If you had mentioned that guards got up at 5:00 in a previous sentence then you wouldn't need the definite article, because it would be "Prisoners (as opposed to guards) get up at..."
    Thanks for weighing in, James.

    Very often I might read an article along the lines of: "There was a fire at the Such & Such Building. Residents were told to evacuate."

    So although it is clear which residents are referred to (the ones inside the Such & Such Building), the article is dropped because the writer means "residents in general/all of them, not any specific ones".

    I, too, would use #1 (The prisoners), but I just want to confirm that choice here is perfectly arbitrary and that there are no hard rules...
     
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