Definite Article in English

The definite article the is used in the following cases:

Explanations Examples
With singular countable nouns,
with plural countable nouns,
and uncountable nouns
the man
the shoes
the water
When we talk about people or things which we mentioned before I met a girl and a boy. I didn't like the boy much, but the girl was very nice.
I have found a coin. The coin is worth 50p.
His car struck a tree; you can still see the mark on the tree.
When we say which things or people we mean Who is the man over there talking to Sue?
When it is clear from the situation which things or people we mean "Where's Simon?" "He's in the bathroom."
( = the bathroom in this house)
Could you switch on the light? ( = the light in this room)
I got into a taxi. The driver asked me where I wanted to go. ( = the driver of the taxi that I got into)
When there is only one unique thing the sun
the moon
the sky
the earth
the world
When we talk about specific things or people These are the shoes which I bought last week.
(=the particular shoes which I bought last week)
Could you pass the milk, please?
(=the particular milk on the table)
I like horses. (=horses in general)
Look at the horses in that field. (=the particular horses)
He only cares about money. (=money in general)
Where is the money I gave you yesterday?
(=the particular money)
We sometimes use the with singular countable nouns when we talk about something in general. It takes place with names of animals, flowers or plants. The dolphin is an intelligent animal.
(=dolphins in general)
The orchid is a beautiful flower. (=orchids in general)
We use the when we talk in general about musical instruments and inventions. She can play the guitar and the piano.
Marconi invented the radio.
Some common expressions with the have general meaning: the town
the country/side
the sea/side
the mountains
the rain
We can use the in front of some adjectives e.g.young, old, rich, poor, blind with general meaning. The young should listen to the old.
( = young people in general; old people in general )
We use the with nationalities e.g. English, Italian, French, Swiss, Japanese when we mean 'the people of the country'. The English drink a lot of tea.
With the nouns described by a phrase, expression or sentence: the girl in blue
the man with the banner
the boy that I met
the place where I met him
With superlative adjectives and with first, second etc. used as adjectives or adverbs and only: the first week
the best day
the only way
When we refer to something which is unique in a specific place. Mrs Robertson heard that the church had been bombed.
He decided to put some words on the blackboard.
We use the with singular nouns when we refer to the system or service. I don't like using the phone.
How long does it take on the train?
We use the with parts of the world, regions whose names include north, south, east, or west.
Warning: there are some exceptions e.g.: North America
the Middle East
the Far East
the north of England
the west of Ireland
With nouns which represent only one specific thing because of its location: Could you switch on the light? ( = the light in this room )
Ann is in the garden. ( = the garden of this house )
the postman ( = the one who comes to us )
the car ( our car )
the newspaper ( = the one we read )
With the following nouns when they are used with their primary meaning connected with entertainment the cinema
the opera
the races
the pictures
the theatre
the radio
People often prefer watching TV to going to the cinema.
Yesterday, my fiancé suggested we should go to the theatre.
With musical instruments when we refer to 'playing': She can play the guitar and the piano.
With specific or special meal: I met him at the dinner given by the Browns.
When we talk about something in general, we use plural nouns and uncountable nouns without the.
but when we talk about something specific we use the.
Shoes are expensive. ( = shoes in general )
Milk is good for you. ( = milk in general )
These are the shoes which I bought last week.
( = the particular shoes )
Could you pass the milk, please?
( = the particular milk on the table )
He only cares about money. ( = money in general )
Where is the money I gave you yesterday?
( = the particular money )
When a noun refers to a set as a whole and when we make generalisations about the whole set of animals or inanimate nouns: The cat drinks a lot of milk.
The lemon has vitamins in.
But the word man, when it represents the mankind, is used without article. If oil supplies run out, man may have to fall back on the horse.
With adjectives used in superlative form and show comparison: Mary Hailey in the most intelligent girl in the class. (in comparison with the other girls in the class)
This is the biggest apple I have ever seen. (in comparison with all the other apples I have ever seen)
That's the longer of the two shirts.
That's the more expensive of the two cars.
With ordinal numbers That's the fourth time you've made such a mistake.
Sofia is not the first capital of Bulgaria
With same Mary always invites the same people.
Ann has got the same shirt as I have
When the name is used in plural: the Quirks
the Sidneys
When there is a person or place with the same name and it is necessary to determine which one we are talking about Is that the Mary Brown?
I don't mean the Warsaw in the United States.
When we want to emphasise that the person mentioned is the one known by everybody Was this book written by the Hemingway?
Are you going to the Monte Carlo?
When we refer to a place in a specific period of time This is not the Paris I used to know.
The New York of our epoch has become a dangerous place to live in.
With last and next when we refer to the nearest days, weeks, months etc.: I met him the last week of our holiday. (not the week before the present one)
I hope to see you the next week after the end of our holiday. (not the week after the present one)
Before a small group of adjectives which denote a group of people The unemployed should be given some money. (the class of people who are unemployed ) The brave are not always rewarded. (the class of people who are brave )
With adjectives which denote nationality and refer to a group of people The French often spend their free time abroad. ( the class of French people )
The Scottish are famous for their miserliness. (the class of Scottish people )
With some adjectives which change into abstract nouns The good characterizes his behaviour.
The bad is not a feature of Tom's character.
With fixed expressions which consist of a comparative adjective and follow the pattern: the more the better The sooner you start your work the better.
The quicker you work the better for you
With gerund denoting an activity/state which is defined by a noun She has done the cooking.
We say go to sea/be at sea (without the) when we mean: go/be on a voyage Ken is a seaman. He spends most of his life at sea.
I would love to live near the sea. (not "near sea")
We say space (not "the space") when we mean the space in universe There are millions of stars in space. (not "in the space")
He tried to park his car but the space wasn't big enough.
We use the + singular countable noun, when we talk about the kind of machine or invention etc. When was the telephone invented?
The bicycle is an excellent means of transport
oceans the Pacific (Ocean)
the Atlantic (Ocean)
seas the Baltic (Sea)
the Black Sea
rivers the Vistula
the Nile
the River Thames or
the Thames
canals the Panama Canal
the Suez Canal
deserts the Sahara
the Kalahari
groups of islands the Canaries
the West Indies
the Bahamas
mountain ranges the Alps
the Tatras
exceptions: before names of towns/cities the Hague
the Piraeus
countries if their name includes the following words:
Kingdom, Union, Republic or State
The United Kingdom
The People's Republic of China
The United States
exceptions: The Netherlands
the Philippines
regions the Middle East
the Far East
the north of England
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