“Distribution” vs “the distribution”

Sometimes “distribution” takes the definite article:

“He studies the distributions of wildcats in North America.”

“The company handles the distribution of goods to stores nationwide.”

and sometimes it doesn’t:

“Was it by cutting staff that he managed to save the firm?” “No, it was by improving distribution that he made it profitable.”

“The university does not permit distribution of leaflets on campus.”

How can I tell when to use the article with this word?

(The example sentences come from Merriam-Webster dictionary and Hewings’s grammar.)

Answer

To complicate things further, the example that use a definite article in the question could omit it with little if any change in meaning, and the ones which do not use it could have it added, again with little if any change in meaning.

  • He studies the distributions of wildcats in North America. (apparently he studies all the distribution that there are)
  • He studies distributions of wildcats in North America. (Perhaps he studies only some of them.)
  • The company handles the distribution of goods to stores nationwide. (this suggests that only one process of distribution is under discussion.)
  • The company handles distribution of goods to stores nationwide. (there may be several different processes.)
  • … it was by improving distribution that he made it profitable. (this probably refers to the process)
  • … it was by improving the distribution that he made it profitable. (this might refer to the department of the company, but it could also mean the process.)
  • The university does not permit distribution of leaflets on campus.
  • The university does not permit the distribution of leaflets on campus. (I can’t see any meaningful difference here.)

It is really hard to formulate any clear guideline.

Attribution
Source : Link , Question Author : Zak , Answer Author : David Siegel

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