Do we use “the” with “police”?

Advanced English Grammar Course

Student Question:

Sometimes I see “police” and sometimes I see “the police” – what’s the difference?

Answer:

Use the police when referring to the institution/organization:

  • The store has been robbed. Call the police!
  • My son wants to join the police when he grows up.

Police (without “the”) can be used to refer to an unspecified number of individual officers:

  • Police searched the area for evidence.
  • He was killed in a shootout with police.

…but it’s also OK to use “the” in these situations:

  • The police searched the area for evidence.
  • He was killed in a shootout with the police.

When referring to the institution/organization, always use the police.

When referring to a group of officers, you can use police or the police – both are OK

Never say “a police” to talk about an individual. Instead, say:

  • a policeman
  • a policewoman
  • a police officer

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