Omission of "the"

Adam   Thursday, January 15, 2004, 16:00 GMT
My Italian girlfriend can speak English, but she is having trouble about knowing when to leave "the" out of sentences. I've told her that in plurals, "the" is often omitted-

e.g. "I like THE rainbow"

or "I like rainbows." When it's plural, "the" is ommited. But it confuses Italian speakers, because they say "I like THE rainbows."

But I've noticed cases of plurals in which "the" is left in the sentence. For example, we can say "I used to work in THE coalmines when I was younger."

So, how do we know in which plural sentences "the" is omitted, and in which plural sentences "the" is left in? I'm an English speaker, but even I find it hard to explain to someone from Italy.
Simon   Thursday, January 15, 2004, 17:02 GMT
In many languages, it goes

THE DOG. Dog , the generic concept.
THAT DOG. The dog we are talking about.

in English it is

DOG. For centuries dog has been the friend of man. Which dog? Which man? It's not important.
THE DOG. The dog we are talking about.

I've forgotten the grammatical names but you understand, I think...
Jim   Friday, January 16, 2004, 00:27 GMT
"For centuries the dog has been the slave of man." I'd have put the "the" in the sentence you gave Simon.
Steve   Friday, January 16, 2004, 00:35 GMT
Jim, The word in that sentence was ''friend'' not ''slave''.
Jim   Friday, January 16, 2004, 00:38 GMT

Yeah, I know: I took the liberty of changing the sentence.
dian   Friday, January 16, 2004, 02:48 GMT
I have found a great site explaining about how use articles in English. You could advise your girlfriend to read the following article:
Simon   Friday, January 16, 2004, 09:24 GMT
Ok replace dog with "sunlight".
Jim   Sunday, January 18, 2004, 23:38 GMT
"For centuries the sunlight has been the slave of man."

Hmmm ... that's nice.
Ryan   Monday, January 19, 2004, 18:01 GMT
Asian languages have the opposite problem. Someone from Japan or China might say "I like rainbow."
same problems for french   Tuesday, January 27, 2004, 11:56 GMT
Same difficulties in french, i like rainbows = j'aime les arcs en ciel, the = les wich is all the time used in french. It's difficult in english beacuse we have the impression to speak like Tarzan if you can understand what i mean. Do not think it's unrespectfull, it's just the idea.
Simon   Tuesday, January 27, 2004, 13:10 GMT
At school a Chinese boy wrote "Behind wall have house". It's a literal translation of Chinese but difficult to understand in English.
Adam   Wednesday, January 28, 2004, 14:55 GMT
Okay. Thanks for your help.