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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 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

Hello miswan

I would say the second one, though I would say 'on the G floor' instead of 'at G floor'.

All the best


The LearnEnglish Team


I have come across the expression "to become king" and would like to know if it is obligatory to add a "the" if you put an adjective (e.g. new) in front of the noun (king) or if you specify the noun a bit more (e.g. of-phase). Here are my examples:

1. He became (the) new king.
2. He became (the) k[K]ing of England.
3. He became (the) new king of England.

I would be very grateful if you would send a reply!

Hello Magnus,
'The' is required in the first and third sentences.
In the second sentence, 'the' is required if 'king' is not capitalised. If 'King' is capitalised then 'the' can (optionally) be omitted as 'King of England' as a title can be used without the article.
The LearnEnglish Team

Can you please tell before which instruments do we use ‘the’

Hello Aditi,
Do you mean musical instruments? If so, then when talking about what we play or like then we use 'the' before all instruments:
> I play the trumpet
> I like the clarinet
> I don't play the drums
The LearnEnglish Team

If only one external expert is to be invited for a meeting of the board. Which of the following sentences should be used to invite the expert: "You are requested to join us as a professional expert" or "You are requested to join us as THE professional expert"?

Hello raj.kumar123,
Both forms are possible, grammatically speaking. The expert is one of many in the world (so 'a' is logical) but is also the only one in the group (so 'the' is logical). I would say that 'the' makes the situation clearest to the person receiving the invitation.
The LearnEnglish Team

Thanks a lot, Sir.

Thank you so much, It's clear now.