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 nurlybekovnt,

Both of these statements are true. Please see Peter's response to EnglishZenon for more information about these two forms. If you have any further questions, you are welcome to ask them, but please ask them in the same thread if possible.

All the best,
The LearnEnglish Team

Hello dear Peter,
Thank you for the feedback, duly noted. Thank you.

Hello dear team,
In the following sentence if we place (poorly) after (designed) will the meaning be different, if yes, how? (Many of these buildings were poorly designed and constructed and have since been demolished.) Thank you.

Hello Hosseinpour,

In this sentence there is no difference in meaning between 'poorly designed' and 'designed poorly'.

It is helpful to other users if questions are posted on relevant pages. This is a page about the definite article while your question is related to adverbs. It would be helpful to other users if you could post future questions on relevant pages rather than unrelated ones.



The LearnEnglish Team

Hello Sir!
"Division of men on the basis of caste is rejected now." Shall we use 'the' before 'division'? Many times, people omit 'the' in the phrases which have 'of' in them like 'division of men'. On the other hand, some people always use 'the' before a noun when it is followed by 'of'. For example, 'the division of men' or 'the shirt of Ram'. Is there any specific rule with regard to it? I am really confused.

Hello raj.kumar123,

We use the definite article when the item or items referred to are specified and are known to both the speaker and the listener. In other words, when we are not talking about something in general or talking about any example of something, but we are talking about specific and identifable examples. If I say 'a cat' then I am talking about any cat; if I say 'the cat' then both you and I must know which animal I mean.

Usually, phrases with 'of' tell us which item or items we mean and so the definite article is needed. In your example, you are not talking about any division, but a specific kind of division: the division of men on the basis of caste. Therefore, the definite article is needed.



The LearnEnglish Team

i just want to know if i will use a or an in a clause i will do that even i identified or mentioned what i'am talking about or not ? for example
"a man like you " or " man like you " ?

Hello omarmohamed99,

The correct phrase here would be either a man like you or men like you. The indefinite article is used because you are not talking about a particular man, but rather 'any man who is similar to you'.



The LearnEnglish Team

Hello everyone :-)!
Could you please tell me in the following sentence why we used an article A (city) and THE (country) - Do you live in a city or in the country?

Thank you in advance :-)! Have a wonderful day :-)!!!

Hello Nerio024,

When we use the word 'country' as a noun to refer to natural, rural land (as in the sentence you ask about), we use 'the' with it. It's as if we conceive of it as a geographical feature, though I'm not sure that's the actual reason we use 'the' in this case -- it might be best to just think of it as an expression. If you follow the link and read the example sentences there, I think you'll see what I mean. Note that when it's used as an adjective (e.g. 'a country road' or 'a country home'), 'the' is not used before it.

All the best,
The LearnEnglish Team