You are here

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 LeyM,

I'm afraid we don't check or correct sentences for our users like this. Although I know it would be very helpful, we are only a small team and can't offer such help to all our users. In addition, questions like this are dependent on the broader context rather than just the individual sentence. We'd need to read the text around this and see what was mentioned before, for example, to give a confident answer.



The LearnEnglish Team

thank you, Peter, i understand

Is it correct to use definite article with scientific inventions like telephone, mobile, radio, wheel?


Hello Rai

That really depends on the context, but yes, 'the' is often used when speaking about an invention.

All the best


The LearnEnglish Team

Hello Team BC,

I'm not sure if we can repeat 'the' per sentence.

e.g - Please carry the large and the heavier box to the van

Correction ? The larger and the heavier box to the van? I'm not sure. I really got confuse when we discuss on this.

Hello Wan Fatisyah binti Wan Yahaya

Are you talking about just one box? If so, I think 'the larger, heavier box' would be best. 

All the best


The LearnEnglish Team

Can you help me?
Which one sentence is correct..
I colour the apple red
I colour the orange orange
This sentences are from 3rd

Hello Pratima Kapure

They both look correct to me.

All the best


The LearnEnglish Team

Hi. Can you please help me identify which is correct?
1) I like watching "Little Mouse and Friends".
2) I like watching the "Little Mouse and Friends".
3) I like watching Little Mouse and Friends.
4) I like watching the Little Mouse and Friends.

"Little Mouse and Friends" is a programme on TV. I'm not sure if quotation marks and definite article the should be used. Thank you

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