enemies/the enemies

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enemies/the enemies

Post by navi » Thu Oct 05, 2017 8:36 am

Which are correct:

1) They have killed enemies who fell into their hands.
2) They have killed enemies who fall into their hands.
3) They killed enemies who fell into their hands.

In which case:
a-They killed every enemy that fell into their hands.
and in which:
b-They killed some of the enemies that fell into their hands
and in which:
c-They might have killed some or all of the enemies that fell into their hands.

Would adding 'the' in front of 'enemies' change the meaning?

Gratefully,
Navi.
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Re: enemies/the enemies

Post by tony h » Fri Oct 06, 2017 5:05 pm

When I first read these I thought they didn't make sense but they can. The context needs to be gang violence, mafia or some such, not traditional warfare.

The meaning doesn't change significantly, it is mostly about timing. They all mean some but unlikely to be all.

You would be unlikely to use the enemies successfully. You would be more likely to use the enemy which would change context to be more likely a military engagement.
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Signature: tony

With the right context almost anything can sound appropriate.

Re: enemies/the enemies

Post by Erik_Kowal » Fri Oct 06, 2017 8:57 pm

tony h wrote:
Fri Oct 06, 2017 5:05 pm
You would be unlikely to use the enemies successfully. You would be more likely to use the enemy which would change context to be more likely a military engagement.
Good point. The singular form, 'the enemy', usually refers to an officially or overtly designated, impersonal enemy — as Tony correctly points out, it is probably one encountered in connection with military action, such as an army unit belonging to a rival state.

Paradoxically, 'the enemies' suggests particular, individually identifiable enemies, like the leaders of a rival faction within an organisation.
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End of topic.
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