THE DEFINITE ARTICLE (HOW TO USE ‘THE’ IN ENGLISH)
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In English, we simply use THE, for the masculine, feminine or neutral, or even for the singular or plural.
We say that ‘the’ is a definite article because it defines something specific. On the contrary, a/an are indefinite articles because they indicates something non-specific.
- the bike
- the bikes
- the boy
- the boys
Did you know that ‘the’ is the most used word in English language?
WHEN TO PUT ‘THE’?
THE is used in the following cases:
TO DESIGNATE A GROUP OF PEOPLE
- the elderly
- the poor
- the Canadians
- This is a plane from the 1930’s.
- She was born in the eighties.
TO DESIGNATE THINGS THAT EVERYONE KNOWS ABOUT
- the stars
- the earth
- the sun
- the moon
GEOGRAPHICAL NAMES: OCEANS, RIVERS, ISLAND GROUPS, AND MOUNTAIN RANGES
- the Hudson River
- the Indian Ocean
- the Pacific Ocean
- the Himalayas
- the Nile
- the Alps
- the Rocky Mountains
- the Arctic
- the Dead sea
SURNAMES IN THE PLURAL
- the Simpsons (= the Simpson family)
WITH THE NAMES OF MONUMENTS
- the Eiffel Tower
- the Louvre
WITH THE NAMES OF NEWSPAPERS
- the New York Times
- the Guardian
- the Sun
COUNTRY NAMES IN THE PLURAL
- the United States of America
- the United Kingdom
- the Netherlands
- the Philippines
⚠️ The agreement is generally in the singular:
- The USA is a very big country.
Definite article (the) or indefinite (a/an)?
See the following example:
- Can we go to the park? → specific, we already know the park where we want to go.
- Can we go to a park? → non-specific, it could be any park.
When Not to use ‘the’?
WITH THE NAMES OF COUNTRIES AND CONTINENTS
- She’s just returned from Italy.
- Russia is a very big country.
- Asia is bigger than Africa.
WITH THE LANGUAGE NAMES
- French is spoken in Switzerland.
- English uses many words of Latin origin.
- Japanese is a beautiful language.
WITH THE NAMES OF THE MEALS
- I like to eat breakfast in the morning. = ✅ / I like to eat
thebreakfast in the morning. = ❌
- Lunch is my favorite meal. = ✅ /
Thelunch is my favorite meal = ❌
WITH TITLES COMBINED WITH A NAME
- President Trump is traveling to China.
- Prince Charles is Queen Elizabeth’s son.
We can say ‘The Queen visited Paris for the first time‘ because we don’t say her first name.
- He’ll probably study medicine.
- Engineering is a well-paid career.
WITH UNCOUNTABLE NAMES
- Bread is an important food in France.
- Milk is often added to tea in England.
- War is destructive.
WITH THE NAMES OF MOUNTAINS, LAKES AND ISLANDS
- He lives near Long Island.
- Mount Everest is the highest mountain in the world.
- Have you been to Lake Tahoe?
WITH STREET NAMES, STATIONS AND AIRPORTS
- Victoria Station is in the centre of London.
- Can you show me where is Oxford Street?
- They’re flying into Charles de Gaulle.
WITH PUBLIC PLACES
- Go to school = ✅ / Go to
theschool = ❌
- Go to work = ✅ / Go to
thework = ❌
- Go to hospital = ✅ / Go to
thehospital = ❌
⚠️ We also say
- Stay in bed = ✅ / Stay in
thebed = ❌
- Be at home = ✅ / Be at
thehome = ❌
For the seasons, you can put or not put THE, both are correct. We can say:
- in summer
- in the summer