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.


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





I'd like to know if you can use the definite article before a proper name as in:

The José Martí National Library of Cuba.

Or José Martí National Library of Cuba.

Thanks a lot for you help.

Hello Indiana59,

Public institutions such as libraries, museums, galleries, theatres and cinemas usually have a definite article before them:

The Louvre

The Smithsonian

The British Museum

The Tate Gallery

Thus you should say:

The José Martí National Library of Cuba


Best wishes,


The LearnEnglish Team


I'd like to know a little bit more about the usage of articles in formal text, used in process descriptions. I'd like to ask for your opinion. Let's say we have a person, who is a Regional Product Manager (RPM). We also have a Product Designer (PD). The abbreviation is used throughout the document after the first explanation.

Which one of the following sentences is correct?
1) RPM notifies PD when drawings are final.
2) The RPM notifies the PD when drawings are final

And I'm also curious about the following ones:
1) RPM is responsible for...
2) The RPM is responsible for...

I'm not a native speaker but I was corrected by one, and I don't agree with her. I'm curious if there's a rule (or rule of thumb) in this case.

Many thanks for your help in advance,

The Ministry of Silly Walks :)

Hello ministryofsillywalks,

This is really an issue to be determined by the style guide that you or the publication you're writing for uses, but in general, as I understand it, acronyms don't need definite articles but initialisms do need them (though again, some style guides may require otherwise). Since both 'RPM' and 'PD' are initialisms, they should be preceded by articles.

Hope this helps.

All the best,
The LearnEnglish Team

Hello, The LearnEnglish Team,
Could you, please, explain me why we use different articles in these sentences:
'The wolf is not really a dangerous animal.'
'A dog likes to eat meat.'
Thank you in advance!

Hello Dima,

There's almost always more than one way to communicate an idea. The case you ask about is one that many of our users have asked about before (in fact, you might find it interesting to read through past comments and our responses). In general, the structure with 'the', or a structure with a plural subject (e.g. 'Wolves are not really ...') are much more common than the structure with the indefinite article 'a'.

All the best,
The LearnEnglish Team

consider the following sentence:
Poorly designed procedures and protocols
produce results that are insufficient to meet the needs of the
Why is the definite article before the word results left out? but before the word needs isn't omitted?
I said this because of the following rule:
The definite article is used Before a noun made definite by the addition of a phrase or clause.

Hello ali black,

The context that a sentence comes in is essential to understanding how articles are used in it. In this case, it sounds as if the analysis and the needs of the analysis have already been mentioned. 'results' could also be preceded by 'the' if some specific results had already been mentioned, but it sounds as if that is not the case here.

All the best,
The LearnEnglish Team

I am a Christian minister and I want to start a new evangelistic ministry. And I plan of naming the ministry as "The Gift Evangelistic Ministry." I just want to know wether I should put "the" or kust name " Gift Evangelistic Ministry" Please help me.

Hello Lian,

Without knowing more about how you conceive of the idea of your ministry as a gift, I can't say for sure, but in general I'd probably recommend 'The Gift ...' over just 'Gift ...'. Good luck!

All the best,
The LearnEnglish Team