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




In 1997 , Canada was the main source of fish imported to US.
Is this sentence is grammatically correct or not as I used was and not used ing and third form of verb , my friend said that it is wrong but I think it is right.

Hi Urs Garry,

The verb forms are fine in your sentence, though you should say 'the US' instead of 'US'. 

All the best,
The LearnEnglish Team

Hello Sir
I went through your website - articles under 'basis grammar' I understood one does not use an article with plural nouns. Let me know it is wrong to say: The cow is a useful animal or it is not wrong.

For e.g. Cows are useful animals. Elephants are herbivorous animals but better not' the elephants are herbivorous animals' etc.

Please let me know.

Thank you.



Hi Lal,

That's correct -- it sounds as if you've understood this very well. Well done!

Best wishes,
The LearnEnglish Team

Which is much more correct ?
However, the power, the reflexes, and the sensation were normal.
However, the power, reflexes and sensation were normal.

Hello Khalid2012,

Both are perfectly fine. The second is more likely as we usually avoid repeating the article in lists like this. However, the first could have more rhetorical power in certain contexts, such as when making an argument in a discussion or debate, for example.



The LearnEnglish Team

Hello dear team,
What is your job (at/ in) this school? Which one is true (in or at)?
Thanks a lot.

Hello Hosseinpour,

I have heard both prepositions used and I think it may depend upon a person's dialect. Personally, I would use 'at', but I would not consider 'in' to be wrong.



The LearnEnglish Team

Hello dear Peter,
Thank you. Thanks a lot.

I have seen the below examples on a website but I have not understood the difference:

-The English language is spoken in the United Kingdom.

-English is spoken in the United Kingdom.
In this example, do they mean English is spoken in general? Is this why, the article 'the' is omitted? and what is the difference compare to the first example?