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

Hello
consider the following sentence:
Poorly designed procedures and protocols
produce results that are insufficient to meet the needs of the
analysis.
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,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Sir,
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,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Hi,

First, many thanks for such a great article.
I am going to start a company in my home town, Karaj, It is a engineering company that tries to solve problems comes from industries, so I am going to call it "Industrial Clinic of Karaj". However I am not sure shall I put the definitive article "the" before the name of company or not: "The Industrial Clinic of Karaj" or "Industrial Clinic of Karaj".

Thanks again,
A

Hi AhmadAR,

If this were a descriptive term then we would use the definite article and say 'the industrial clinic of Karaj'. However, as a name it is really up to you. Some companies use a definite article and others do not - there is no fixed rule on this.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Hello everyone, could you help me with these sentences?
"similarities between (the?) portfolios of (the?) various institutions"
"(the?) systemic risk is connected to..."
"because of (the?) interconnected nature of (the?) financial markets"
"(the?) market value"
thank you very much for your help!

Hello francescolan,

I'm afraid it's very hard to answer this question because the use of articles is largely context-dependent. It is possible, for example, to say 'the market value' or just 'market value' - or, indeed, 'a market value' - depending on the context in which it appears. However, the most likely forms would be as follows:

"similarities between the portfolios of the various institutions"

"the systemic risk is connected to..."

"because of the interconnected nature of...

The other examples are not clear without any further context.

Please note that our role here is to help users with out material, not to provide a checking or correction service, so we do not generally answer questions such as these. If we tried to provide this kind of help we would have no time for our other work, I am afraid!

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Can I use definite article before people name to emphasize him? example : The Barac Obama... or can I use definite article before famous people name?

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