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 Mah

2 and 4 are not correct -- no definite article is needed here. I'm afraid I can't say whether 1 or 3 is better, as this is something there is no agreement on. If I were writing this, I would put Little Mouse and Friends in italics (Little Mouse and Friends) and as a second option would write it like 1.

All the best


The LearnEnglish Team


When I receive an email and the other person states that: ''I have not received the letter yet'' and I reply: ''The letters should be delivered within 14 days at property's address''.

Is the meaning different or/and is grammatically wrong to not include ''the'' before the word ''property's''?

Many Thanks in advance.

Hello Panos

It sounds to me as if the article 'the' should go before 'property's address' here. Since both you and the other person know which property is being referred to, you should use the definite article 'the'.

All the best


The LearnEnglish Team

Many Thanks Kirk.

Should I put definite article 'the' in front of the name of a course? Ex: I've just attended the Be Safe Preparation Course.

Hello Mah

Here the general rules for using articles apply. In other words, if you think the person you are speaking or writing to already knows about the course, then you should use 'the'. On the other hand, if the course hasn't been mentioned yet in your conversation, then 'a' would be more appropriate. Does that make sense?

All the best


The LearnEnglish Team

Hello, Kirk, thanks for your reply. I'm still confused why 'a' is used in this case because the name/title of the course is capitalised. I thought we either choose definite article the or no article in front of proper nouns. Appreciate if you would explain, thanks again.

Hello again Mah

If you and I just started speaking about our job training, for example, I could say to you 'I just took a Be Safe Preparation Course'. I could use 'a' here because maybe, for example, there are several different kinds of Be Safe Preparation Courses; one for working in a factory, one for working on motorways, one for working in a hospital, etc.

If, however, there is only one Be Safe Preparation Course and I think you know about the course, then I would use 'the'. The capitalisation of a proper noun doesn't in itself determine what article should be used with it. Instead, it's the context in which you speak of the noun that determines which article is correct.

Hope this helps.

All the best


The LearnEnglish Team

Hello, Kirk, thanks for your clear explanation.

Hello Sir,
Can you help me to identify which one is correct?

"From Information Centre at G floor, follow the "Sky Walk" sign to Entrance 1." or "From THE Information Centre at G floor, follow the "Sky Walk" sign to Entrance 1." or "From THE Information Centre at G floor, follow the "Sky Walk" sign to THE Entrance 1."

Thank You