The definite article the is the most frequent word in English.

We use the definite article in front of a noun when we believe the hearer/reader knows exactly what we are referring to.

• because there is only one:

The Pope is visiting Russia.
The moon is very bright tonight.
The Shah of Iran was deposed in 1979.

This is why we use the definite article with a superlative adjective:

He is the tallest boy in the class.
It is the oldest building in the town.

• because there is only one in that place or in those surroundings:

 

We live in a small village next to the church.  =  (the church in our village)
Dad, can I borrow the car? = (the car that belongs to our family)
When we stayed at my grandmother’s house we went to the beach every day.  =  (the beach near my grandmother’s house)
Look at the boy in the blue shirt over there.  = (the boy I am pointing at)

 

 
• because we have already mentioned it:

A woman who fell 10 metres from High Peak was lifted to safety by a helicopter. The woman fell while climbing.
The rescue is the latest in a series of incidents on High Peak. In January last year two men walking on the peak were killed in a fall. 

We also use the definite article:

• to say something about all the things referred to by a noun:

The wolf is not really a dangerous animal (= Wolves are not really dangerous animals)
The kangaroo is found only in Australia (= Kangaroos are found only in Australia)
The heart pumps blood around the body. (= Hearts pump blood around bodies)

We use the definite article in this way to talk about musical instruments:

Joe plays the piano really well.(= Joe can play any piano)
She is learning the guitar.(= She is learning to play any guitar)

• to refer to a system or service:

How long does it take on the train?
I heard it on the radio.
You should tell the police.

• With adjectives like rich, poor, elderly, unemployed to talk about groups of people:

Life can be very hard for the poor.
I think the rich should pay more taxes.
She works for a group to help the disabled.

The definite article with names:

We do not normally use the definite article with names:

William Shakespeare wrote Hamlet.
Paris is the capital of France.
Iran is in Asia.

But we do use the definite article with:

countries whose names include words like kingdom, states or republic:

the United Kingdom; the Kingdom of Nepal; the United States; the People’s Republic of China.

countries which have plural nouns as their names:

the Netherlands; the Philippines

geographical features, such as mountain ranges, groups of islands, rivers, seas, oceans and canals:

the Himalayas; the Canaries; the Atlantic; the Atlantic Ocean; the Amazon; the Panama Canal.

newspapers:

The Times; The Washington Post

• well known buildings or works of art:

the Empire State Building; the Taj Mahal; the Mona Lisa; the Sunflowers

organisations:

the United Nations; the Seamen’s Union

hotels, pubs and restaurants*:

the Ritz; the Ritz Hotel; the King’s Head; the Déjà Vu

*Note: We do not use the definite article if the name of the hotel or restaurant is the name of the owner, e.g.,Brown’s; Brown’s Hotel; Morel’s; Morel’s Restaurant, etc.

families:

the Obamas; the Jacksons

Exercise

Section: 

Comments

Dear Experts,

Please let me know the usage of definite article 'the' before abbreviations/acronyms.

And also justify me as to why do we use them so.

Hello amol,

I responded to a similar question a few weeks ago. Please see my response to ministryofsillywalks's comment. If that doesn't clear it up for you, please feel free to ask us another specific question.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Hello,

The word 'quality' is a noun.

1. Kindly let me know what type of noun it is.

2. Which article should we use before it.

For e.g:

Patience is A QUALITY which he admires the most.

If patience is non count noun, how can we use A QUALITY in the above sentence?

Hello amol,

If you look up 'quality' in the Cambridge Dictionary, you'll find this kind of information, including the fact that it can be both count and uncount, as well as example sentences. After you've looked that that, if you have any further questions, please let us know, though please make them as specific as you can.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Thank you Sir!

I got it.

Hello,
I have a question regarding the use of the definite article with the names of streets, roads, etc. In all the grammar books, the only rule that I found was that we should always use zero article, but that there are some exceptions (e.g. the High Street, the Mall, the M25, the Old Kent Road, the Avenue of the Americas etc.). My question is if there is a rule/explanation for these exceptions, because I haven't been able to find one anywhere.
Thank you in advance,
Jan

Hello london33007,

I'm afraid I'm not aware of any rule to govern this. I think it is simply a question of convention and tradition. I can say that all motorways have a definite article (the M1, the M25 etc) as well as other road categories (the A2, the B34 etc). However, in the US highways do not have articles (Route 66, not the Route 66).

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Hello Experts,

I have following queries regarding the use of articles.

1. I want to buy NEW FURNITURE / I want to buy THE NEW FURNITURE?

2. She likes THE CLASSICAL MUSIC / She likes CLASSICAL MUSIC?

3. THE CHINESE SILK is beautiful / CHINESE SILK is beautiful?

Thanks in advance.

Hello amol,

If you are talking in general then you would not use the article; if you are talking about a particular set of items then you would use the definite article. For example:

Chinese silk is beautiful - this tells us about Chinese silk in general

The Chinese silk is beautiful - this tells us about a particular example of Chinese silk. For example, you might say this if you were comparing Chinese silk and American cotton in a shop.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Thank you so much Sir!

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