(the) society

Unemployment is one of the most serious problems for the society today.

The problem here is that the society (with ‘the’) has quite a different meaning to society (without ‘the’).

If you’re talking about all of humanity as a collective, then you’re probably talking about society. In this case you’re probably thinking about the whole of the human race at a particular time, usually around now. If problems are faced by society (without ‘the’), then they are likely to be problems that all people face, either across an entire country, or possibly all over the world, and so in this case you need:

  • Unemployment is one of the most serious problems for society today.

On the other hand if you’re talking about a specific group of people who have some kind of shared set of specific interests then you need the society. For example in this list of academic ‘societies’, group members relate to each other because they share the same academic interests. Similarly, universities often have societies devoted to particular hobbies or interests. In this case you might be writing something like:

  • In our university the most popular society is the photographic society. The society has 600 members.

Notice that in this example, not only do we use ‘the’ to show that we are talking about a specific group, but we also use words to modify the word society so that our reader understands exactly which group we’re talking about (‘most popular’, ‘photographic’).

So, be careful next time you use society! And if you’re still not happy with this explanation, and you’re not afraid of distractions, you can check out society in a dictionary. Better still look at some sentences featuring society.

(cover photo: source)

every time / all the time

Doctor, what’s wrong with me? I feel tired every time!

If you say this to a doctor then the doctor will think to himself “Every time you do what?” He will begin to imagine frequent scenarios in your life when you feel tired, for example every time you plough a rice field, or every time you do an IELTS practice test, or every time you lift 200kg above your head.

Indonesian flag Every time in English is more like the Indonesian setiap kali. What you mean to say is all the time:

  • Doctor, what’s wrong with me? I feel tired all the time!

And so, every time you say ‘every time’, you should stop and think: Do you actually mean all the time?!