The definite article (The) – with examples!

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 

THE DECADES

  • 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 the breakfast in the morning. = FALSE]
  • Lunch is my favorite meal. [the lunch is my favorite meal = FALSE]

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.

WITH PROFESSIONS

  • 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 the school = FALSE ]
  • Go to work [go to the work = FALSE ]
  • Go to hospital [go to the hospital = FALSE ]

⚠ We also say

  • Stay in bed [stay in the bed = FALSE ]
  • Be at home [be at the home = FALSE ]

NOTE

For the seasons, you can put or not put THE, both are correct. We can say:

  • in summer
  • in the summer




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