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The definite article: 'the'

Level: beginner

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 listener/reader knows exactly what we are referring to:

  • because there is only one:

The Pope is visiting Russia.
The moon is very bright tonight.
Who is the president of France?

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 context:

We live in a small house 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 over there. (= the boy I am pointing at)

  • because we have already mentioned it:

A young man got a nasty shock when he tried to rob a jewellery shop in Richmond. The man used a heavy hammer to smash the windows in the shop.

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.
She is learning the 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.

The definite article the 1


The definite article the 2


The definite article the 3



Level: intermediate

We can also use the definite article with adjectives like rich, poor, elderly and 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.



Level: beginner

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 Bhutan
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 (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
  • organisations:
the United Nations the Seamen's Union
  • hotels, pubs and restaurants:
the Ritz the Ritz Hotel the King's Head the Déjà Vu

But note that we do not use the definite article if the name of the hotel or restaurant is the name of the owner:

Brown's Brown's Hotel Morel's Morel's Restaurant
  • families:
the Obamas the Jacksons
The definite article with names 1


The definite article with names 2


The definite article with names 3


The definite article with names 4




Hello Elvin777,

I would use articles as follows:

The susceptibility of the (1) human brain to (2) manipulation with the (3) implementation of (4) proper techniques leads to the (5) easy penetration of dangerous ideas into our minds.

  1. the used for generic representation
  2. no article for abstract concepts
  3. the used as the 'of' phrase identifies the typle of implementation
  4. no article for non-specific plural
  5. the used as the 'of' phrase specifies the type of penetration



The LearnEnglish Team

Thank you, very much! Your comment helped a lot!

Hello Mr Kirk,
I can't find the factual mistake in the definate articale0 with names 3 about France.

Hello Momocompanyman

You're right, there is no mistake. There used to be one in the exercise, but we removed that part of the task and neglected to update the instructions until now. I'm very sorry for the confusion!

All the best


The LearnEnglish Team

The name of a restaurant is 'Restaurant Laguna'.
Would you say on an invitation:
'The event will take place at Restaurant Laguna on May 5th...'
'The event will take place at the Restaurant Laguna on May 5th...'?
Thank you.

Thank you, Kirk!
What would be the explanation, which rule applies here?

Hello Maite23

This is a tricky area, as it depends on how well-known you think the restaurant is to the people receiving the invitation. 'the' is often used with unique restaurants, which also tend not to have the word 'restaurant' in their name (though as far as I know that is not a rule). Since the restaurant you asked about had 'restaurant' in its name, I recommend not using 'the', but it does depend a bit on the situation.

I'm sorry I can't be more definitive, but I hope that helps you make some sense of it.

All the best


The LearnEnglish Team

Hello Maite23

The first one is correct.

All the best


The LearnEnglish Team

Hi, in this sentence: "No matter if you dream of a laid-back experience under the sun of Mallorca or exploring the wonderful culture and architecture of Venice, we will provide you with a perfect plan of your journey.", the use of "the" while referring to "culture" is justified, as there's only one culture of Venice, right?

Hello Dor1989

Yes, 'the' is correct here. I would say 'for your journey' instead of 'of'.

All the best


The LearnEnglish Team