<the> secret planning by a group of people to do something illegal

VicNicSor

Banned
Russian
Conspiracy is the secret planning by a group of people to do something illegal.
Collins Cobuild

"THE" implies here that there's one way, or the well-known way, of doing so. Zero-article could also be used here. The phrase "secret planning by a group of people to do something illegal" would sound more general then. Am I right?
Thank you.
 
  • Copyright

    Senior Member
    American English
    As far as the dictionary definition, it's the planning by a particular group to do something specific that's illegal. It doesn't mean there's only one way or one well-known way of doing something illegal.

    I would have to see the "zero article" usage in a sentence.
     

    VicNicSor

    Banned
    Russian
    Yes, I see now (as to "well-known" and "zero-article"):)
    But there's another definition of conspiracy:
    a secret plan by a group to do something unlawful or harmful
    (Oxford dictionary)


    It's the same as Collin's but with a different article. That means in the Collin's definition zero article could also be used. It'd imply:
    Conspiracy is secret planning (when it is done) by a group of people to do something illegal.
    Am I right?
     

    Copyright

    Senior Member
    American English
    It's the same as Collin's but with a different article. That means in the Collin's definition zero article could also be used. It'd imply:
    Conspiracy is secret planning (when it is done) by a group of people to do something illegal.
    Am I right?
    It would be better to quote the Collins definition rather than making it a puzzle: conspiracy: a secret plan or agreement to carry out an illegal or harmful act, esp with political motivation; plot

    It needs an article, in my opinion, whether "a" or "the." It's not a general secret planning – it's a specific secret planning for a particular aim.
     

    VicNicSor

    Banned
    Russian
    It would be better to quote the Collins definition rather than making it a puzzle:
    Sorry, but why would it be better?:( The Collins definition is quite different from these two, which are almost identical but with different articles:

    the secret planning by a group of people to do something illegal (Cobuild)
    a secret plan by a group to do something unlawful or harmful (Oxford)


    "Plan" is countable, "planning" is uncountable -- that's the difference (leaving aside planning is an act of making a plan). So "planning" in the former definition is the same as "a plan" in the latter one. I.e. -- more general than if it were "the plan" and "the planning" there instead. Am I right? Now, if I'm wrong and I can't use zero article in the Cobuild's definition, why is article A used in Oxford's?...
     

    JulianStuart

    Senior Member
    English (UK then US)
    It usually doesn't matter, in a dictionary definition, whether the definite or indefinite article is used:( It only matters when writing a complete sentence. For example, does the dictionary definition explain ther meaning of "a conspiracy" ot "the conspiracy"? Neither - it gives information about the basic meaning of the word. Find a sentence in which the word is used and we can tell you whether a, the or zero is needed.
     

    VicNicSor

    Banned
    Russian
    "a conspiracy" ot "the conspiracy"? Neither - it gives information about the basic meaning of the word.
    Isn't the "basic" meaning of a word what it is in a general sense? It could be either "a conspiracy" or "conspiracy" (if uncountable), but not "the conspiracy". At least I think so.:)
    Find a sentence in which the word is used and we can tell you whether a, the or zero is needed.
    I wouldn't say those definitions are not complete sentences...:( Imagine, please, your child asks you: 'Dad, what's (a) conspiracy?' You:
    1. Conspiracy is the secret planning by a group of people to do something illegal.
    2. Conspiracy is secret planning by a group of people to do something illegal.
    3. A conspiracy is a secret plan by a group to do something unlawful or harmful.
    4. A conspiracy is the secret plan by a group to do something unlawful or harmful.

    Are all the options possible?
     

    JulianStuart

    Senior Member
    English (UK then US)
    Yes they are, mostly :D
    4 is awkward because you have mixed a and the , but you still have "a group" , so it is "that specific plan" made by "a group" which is "to do something unlawful or harmful", rather than any other different kind of plan for, say, a celebration party or a trip abroad.
     

    VicNicSor

    Banned
    Russian
    Thank you for the answers.
    so it is "that specific plan" made by "a group"
    On the other hand, "a secret plan" (in option 3) doesn't imply that this is one of many plans made by that group. It's just introducing the notion/word -- "a plan". For the same reason I used zero article in option 2 -- secret planning. Hence, the question, if option 3 is better than option 4, is option 2 better than option 1, too?
     

    VicNicSor

    Banned
    Russian
    Your options 3 and 4 are both defective, because the conspiracy lies not in the plan but in the planning, through which the plan is jointly developed.
    Option 3 is an Oxford dictionary definition (as I said here above). Most dictionaries, unlike Cobuild's, by the way, use "a plan" for "conspiracy". M-W (learners') draws a clear distinction between the countable and uncountable meanings:
    1 [count] : a secret plan made by two or more people to do something that is harmful or illegal
    The CIA uncovered a conspiracy against the government.
    2 [noncount] : the act of secretly planning to do something that is harmful or illegal
    They were accused of conspiracy to commit murder.
     
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