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.(= George 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.
The Times; The Washington Post
• well known buildings or works of art:
the Empire State Building; the Taj Mahal; the Mona Lisa; the Sunflowers
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.
the Obamas; the Jacksons