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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




Dear sir

With all respect, i want to ask you questions about using "in spite of".

I found a sentence;

Although she is a good actress, she has never received the Academy Award.

The point is that I do not know how to write

this sentence by using "in spite of".

But, i tried a few sentences;

1 In spite of being a good actress, she has

never received the Academy Award.

Could you please tell whether this is right or


If this is wrong answer,could you explain

why it is wrong ,then tell me the correct

answer, please.

One of my friend also tell me that the correct


In spite of her being a good actress, she has

never received the Academy Award.

I do not know if this sentence is right.

Could u also please explain to me why this sentence is right.

Ps. I really confused to get the correct answer for this question.

I really looking forward to hearing from you soon

Hello Jeffery

'In spite of being a good actress, she has never received the Academy Award' is the form that I would recommend using here in general. Your friend's version is also correct, but is probably more appropriate in some specific context.

All the best


The LearnEnglish Team

Thank you sir!

Hi, I am currently learning collective nouns and I would like to know if these sentences are grammatically correct.

Should it be

1. A group of students is here OR A group of students are here?

If the subject is 'group' should the verb be 'is'? It sounds very strange when I read it, but am I correct?


Hi muratt,

In modern English both are acceptable.


When we use collective nouns, such as a group of, the verb can be either singular (when we are thinking of the group as a whole) or plural (if we are focusing on the group as a collection of individuals).


The rule is different when we use quantifiers. Here, the verb agrees with the noun which follows. For example:

A great number of people are waiting. [people = plural so a plural verb form is used]

A lot of time has been wasted. [time = singular so a plural verb form is used]



The LearnEnglish Team

thank you.

Hello All, could you please help me to clarify such cases for me.
The susceptibility of (?) human brain to (?) manipulation with the implementation of (?) proper techniques leads to (?) easy penetration of dangerous ideas into our minds.
1) Could you please tell me if my placement of articles is correct?
2)What about (?) signs added by me? Are there any cases in which I have to add "the" article?
3) How do we use "the" article in such tricky sentences?
Looking forward to hearing from you. Thanks in advance :)

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.