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
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 elderly.
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|
|The Times||The Washington Post|
- well-known buildings or works of art:
|the Empire State Building||the Taj Mahal||the Mona Lisa|
|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|
|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
The sentence is not correct without 'the'.
Articles depend upon context. We use 'the' when both the speaker and the listener can identify specifically which item is being described. Thus:
In your example the speaker and listener can see the boy and his shirt, so it is clear that the speaker is referring to a specific, concrete and particular blue shirt and not to any other.
The LearnEnglish Team
You're welcome and we wish you a happy new year as well!
All the best,
The LearnEnglish Team