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Hi all,

I have been wondering about the usage of articles in English for quite some time. Sometimes I am confused about when to put "the" in front of a noun, or when to pluralize things. Could you help explain these sentences below:

-While ([1]the?) responsibility for estimating long-run marginal costs of supplying and disposing of water should clearly rest with the utilities concerned,([2] an/the?) estimate of environmental and depletion costs should be undertaken by local governments.

-While ([3]the?) installation of meters in new building is increasingly the policy in Chinese cities, much effort is clearly required if universal metering is to be achieved.

Why didn't the author put a/an/the in the places where I put parentheses [1][2][3]?

For example, when referring to responsibility in [1], we all know that that responsibility belongs to somebody and it is modified in the sentence, so we should put "the" in front of it. Similarly for [2] and [3], why didn't the author put in an article (or at least pluralize the noun "installations" in [3])?

I have problems with mass nouns and count nouns. Sometimes I can't distinguish between the two types. Other times, I am not sure whether or not to put "the" in front of a mass noun? Are there any rules that would help with this problem?

Please give me some detailed answers! Thanks!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

You guys are the best!
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1. "responsibility for" and "the responsibility for" both work and both mean the same thing. It's just the author's choice.

2. This seems marginal to me. If the article is to be omitted, I would prefer "estimation" to "estimate".

3. As in (1), "the" is optional, though I would probably use it. ("building" should be "buildings", by the way).
PrinnySquadI have problems with mass nouns and count nouns. Sometimes I can't distinguish between the two types.
Count nouns are distinguished by the fact that they can take the indefinite article ("a" / "an") and can have a separate plural form. Except for obviously countable physical objects (like apples or cars), I'm not sure there is any way to tell whether a given noun can be used as a countable noun, uncountable noun, or both, except through experience of the language or by looking in a dictionary.
PrinnySquadOther times, I am not sure whether or not to put "the" in front of a mass noun? Are there any rules that would help with this problem?
Beyond the very basic level, rules about the use of articles in English are notoriously difficult to codify. Even native speakers may not be able to explain why they use an article in one place and not in another. Generally speaking, you use "the" in front of an uncountable noun when you are talking about a specific instance:

"Music is beautiful" -- music generally

"The music is beautiful" -- the particular piece of music we are listening to, for example

There are no doubt many cases where this simple rule is inadequate.
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Mr Wordy2. This seems marginal to me. If the article is to be omitted, I would prefer "estimation" to "estimate".
Thank you for explaining in such details. I really appreciate it. As for this part, could elaborate on what you meant by "marginal"? I do understand that "estimation" is a better word as it's a mass noun, a concept, whereas "estimate" is quantifiable, like a guess. Correct?

From what I got from reading this article, the author was trying to say "responsibility for A" in general, so I guess that's why he left out "the." That leads me to generalize like this: when talking about mass nouns(like an idea or a concept), we can safely leave out "the" if we want to be general. When we want to emphasize, "the" has to be there. Even though, in this instance, "responsibility for A" isn't really that general, but he's trying to make the case for every body, not just for the country he was writing about (which is China, by the way). Am I right?

I noticed that a mass noun can become "specific" when we interact with it, like having a verb in front of it. However, when I use the normal verbs usually associated with "responsibility" I notice that most of them belong in an idiomatic phrases like: "take responsibility for", or "assume responsibility for." This seems to eliminate the need for the article "the" there, though if you have it, it won't hurt.

BUT with non-idiomatic verbs, such as this one: "To do A is to add to the responsibility for B." My sense is that you MUST have the there. This somehow makes "responsibility" more specific. What do you think Mr Wordy?
PrinnySquadThank you for explaining in such details. I really appreciate it. As for this part, could elaborate on what you meant by "marginal"?
By "marginal" I mean on the boundary between correct and incorrect.
PrinnySquadI do understand that "estimation" is a better word as it's a mass noun, a concept, whereas "estimate" is quantifiable, like a guess. Correct?
Yes.
PrinnySquadFrom what I got from reading this article, the author was trying to say "responsibility for A" in general, so I guess that's why he left out "the." That leads me to generalize like this: when talking about mass nouns(like an idea or a concept), we can safely leave out "the" if we want to be general. When we want to emphasize, "the" has to be there. Even though, in this instance, "responsibility for A" isn't really that general, but he's trying to make the case for every body, not just for the country he was writing about (which is China, by the way). Am I right?
In my opinion, not really. In that sentence, I detect no difference in meaning between "responsibility" and "the responsibility". You'd think that leaving out "the" ought to make it more general, but for some reason it doesn't seem to make any difference in this case.
PrinnySquadBUT with non-idiomatic verbs, such as this one: "To do A is to add to the responsibility for B." My sense is that you MUST have the there. This somehow makes "responsibility" more specific. What do you think Mr Wordy?
Yes, in the first examples ("take responsibility for" and "assume responsibility for"), the article is usually omitted, and yes, in "add to the responsibility for", the article seems necessary. However, I'm not sure this has anything to do with the first examples being common idioms. To me, it seems more a consquence of the "to" in "add to".