definite article: the

 

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

Comments

According to The Chicago Manual of Style, Comma may be used before 'because' in special cases. Examples:

He didn’t run, because he was afraid.

He didn’t run because he was afraid.

In the first sentence, “because he was afraid” isn’t necessary; the main thing is that he didn’t run, and the reason is incidental. The second sentence, which omits the comma, is unclear. It might mean that he ran, but not because he was afraid. To prevent confusion, sometimes you need the comma. "

Is this rule applicable to British English? Can we use ',' before 'because' in such cases in British English?

Hello raj.kumar,

As I said in my answer to your similar question regarding 'as', the use of commas is often a question of style and authorial preference. Manuals of style give subjective opinions on such matters, not fixed rules.

I'm afraid you need to accept that many matters in languages are not determined by fixed, unchanging rules, but rather by personal choice. Reading as widely as possible so that you are exposed to as many examples as possible is key.

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Dear Teacher,
Should I use a comma before 'as' (conjunction), particularly when 'as' is used in the sense of 'because'. In Cambridge Dictionary, there are many examples with reference to it. Most of them are without 'Comma'. Examples:
The ceasefire treaty was meaningless, as neither side ever had any intention of keeping to it. (With Comma)
Improved safety measures in cars can be counterproductive as they encourage people to drive faster. (Without Comma)
http://dictionary.cambridge.org/dictionary/british/as#3-1

Is there any definite rule regarding it?

Hello raj.kumar,

The use of commas is not necessarily dependent on particular words. Here, for example, it is possible to write each sentence either with or without a comma, depending on the author's own style.

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Can you please advice on the following sentence.
"Welcome to the unlimited entertainment"
Is this sentence grammatically correct?
FYI It is a claim to be used in a display ads and it refers to the world of the brand (it means 'welcome to the unlimited (brand) entertainment).

Thanks!!!

Hi valenturion,

I'd recommend you hire a translator or proofreader to check texts such as this one, but I'd say that 'the' shouldn't be used here: 'Welcome to unlimited entertainment'.

Best wishes,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Why do we talk about 'the environment' but not 'the nature'?

Hello Archimbaldo,

In many contexts, both can be used. As you can see in the entries for these words in the dictionary (see the search box at the bottom of the right margin), 'nature' can include animals, whereas 'environment' does not.

I hope this helps.

Best wishes,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Hi, I'm confused about "the".

1. Could you please tell me about article usage for proper nouns, such as names of companies, organizations, scenic spots, brands and some particular items?

2. I don't know if it should exist in the following sentences.
A. "The" Shandong Jinhe Investment Group is located in Weifang, Shandong Provice, China.
B. "The" Qingdao Economic & Technical Development Zone is approved by the State Council.
C. "The" Jimo Rice Wine is made from millet, yeast and water. (Jimo is a county-level city of China.)
D. "The" Jiaozhou Bay is loacted in "the" Qingdao city.
E. "The" China Eastern launched three new domestic routes. (China Eastern is a airline company)
F. in "the" rail transit industry

Thanks for help.

Hi Shirley2727,

The rules for these are on this page. Look for the section headed 'The definite article with names'.

In answer to your other question, we would use 'the' in sentences A, B and F, but not in the others.

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Pages