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 Sir
Is this correct? Please let me know.
Most of students passed the exam.
Why not most of the students
Most of them passed the exam. This is allright to me
Please let me know.
Thank you.

Hello,
I would like to get to know, why we say "the defeated army" instead of "a defeated army". I can't get it :D. Army is countable noun and we don't indicate any certain army. Thanks in advance :)

Hello mastach,

One article or the other is used according to the word that follows it and also according to the context. Presumably, an army was referred to before. If you want to submit the context (usually a sentence or two before it is enough) for this phrase in another comment, we can help you understand it.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Hello Grammar expert,
Based on the rules regarding the usage of an article with parts of body, we use his, her, instead if an article. In the situation, when we play a game and do not see a person but touch his part of body trying to identify him or her. Can we say: It is a hand or it is a shoulder. Or is it better to say: it is someone's hand. Another question is about illnesses: He got lung cancer. We do not use an article in this case, but if we say he got cancer of lung. Based on the rule about definite article : noun+of, do we need to use the cancer of lung? or in English it is not common to say the cancer of lung and people mostly use lung cancer????
Thank You!!!!

Hello tatsianushka,

We can use either an article or a possessive adjective, but not both. We use the indefinite article when we are simply talking about an example of a body part, such as in your game. In this case 'a hand' or 'someone's hand' are equivalent.

We use the possessive adjective when we wish or need to say whose it is. If the rules of the game were that we had to guess whose hand we touched then we would use a possessive instead of an article.

Generally we say 'lung cancer' or 'cancer of the lung'. 'Cancer' is not countable so we do not use an indefinite article. We use a definite article only if we are talking about a previously mentioned example and wish to identify it. For example, we might say 'The cancer he had three years ago was worse than this one'.

If a disease/sickness is countable then we do use an article. For example, we can say 'He has a stomach ulcer' or 'She has a migrane'.


Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Hello chocolate (I hope you don't mind the shortening),

The second sentence is correct. I think you need to use 'both' in the first sentence:

Both of the women are reporters.

 


Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Fill in the blanks with suitable articles.

__ lion is ___ king of beasts.

Who is ___ girl sitting there.

She is ___ untidy girl.

Hello softader,

I'm afraid we don't provide this kind of service. If you ask us about one of two of these gaps, explaining what you think the answer should be and why, then we'll be happy to help you, but we don't do people's exercises for them!

I'd suggest you read the section about the comments on our Frequently asked questions page.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Dear kirk,
I have completed the exercise , but I am confused with these three sentences.
1. The lion is the king of beasts. ( why we are using the second time before king ?)
2. Who is the girl sitting there ? ( Here "the" is used before girl because she is specifically being talked about ?)
3. She is an untidy girl. ( I don't know why "an" is used here instead of "the" because isn't girl being talked about is denoted by "She".
It would be very helpful if you can help me with the first and third sentence.

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