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 hearer/reader knows exactly what we are referring to.

• because there is only one:

The Pope is visiting Russia.
The moon is very bright tonight.
The Shah of Iran was deposed in 1979.

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 place or in those surroundings:

 

We live in a small village 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 in the blue shirt over there.  = (the boy I am pointing at)

 

 
• because we have already mentioned it:

A woman who fell 10 metres from High Peak was lifted to safety by a helicopter. The woman fell while climbing.
The rescue is the latest in a series of incidents on High Peak. In January last year two men walking on the peak were killed in a fall. 

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.(= Joe can play any piano)
She is learning the guitar.(= She is learning to play any 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.

• With adjectives like rich, poor, elderly, 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.

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 Nepal; 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; 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; the Sunflowers

organisations:

the United Nations; the Seamen’s Union

hotels, pubs and restaurants*:

the Ritz; the Ritz Hotel; the King’s Head; the Déjà Vu

*Note: We do not use the definite article if the name of the hotel or restaurant is the name of the owner, e.g.,Brown’s; Brown’s Hotel; Morel’s; Morel’s Restaurant, etc.

families:

the Obamas; the Jacksons

Exercise

Section: 

Comments

Dear Sir, Hello.

Please read the following sentence: "If you set two or more question papers with the same/similar questions, kindly ensure that these papers are scheduled to be held in the same time slot."

When we use 'Same' in general sense, are we required to use 'the' before it?

Thanks.

Hello raj.kumar,

I'm not sure what you mean by 'general sense' here. 'Same is used very rarely without a determiner. This is almost always 'the' but could also be 'this', 'that', 'these' and 'those'. There is also a fixed expression with 'same' alone ('same difference') used in informal speech.

In your example 'the' is necessary in both positions. However, if 'similar' is used then no article is required as the noun is plural.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Hello! I have a question on the use of the article "the". I want to post some pictures on my Instagram, but I'm not sure which of the captions below would be correct:

Artworks by Brazilian artist Ana Horta.
Artworks by the Brazilian artist Ana Horta.

Are both okay? Is there any difference in meaning between the first option and the second?

Thank you in advance!
Karla.

Hello kimota,

Both forms are fine. In the first sentence (without 'the') the words 'Brazilian artist' functions effectively as a title, while in the second sentence it is simply a descriptive adjectival phrase.

I think in terms of usage, the first one would be more common on your own website, while the second would be more likely to be used in a magazine article about you.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

I just joined this great web site and it is impressive how efficient this source is, besides The LearnEnglish Team seems to be working in a very professional and timely manner. So gratified!

Hello dear team,
Please help me with the following question:
In translating a book, at the end of one chapter, when marking the source of the text, should I put in this way:
1. Adapted from "Biography of Lou Hu" in History of the Former Han
[Note: The Book Name of "History of the Former Han "Italicized]

Q1: Should I use the quotation marks "" or just italicize the chapter name and book name?

or in this way:
Adapted from the Biography of Lou Hu in History of the Former Han
[Note: The Book Names of " Biography of Lou Hu " & "History of the Former Han " both Italicized]

Q2: Should I add "the" before Biography?
or should I also add "the" before "History" like this:

Adapted from the Biography of Lou Hu in the History of the Former Han

Looking forward to your reply.

Thank you very much,

Yaoyun

Hello dear team,
Two old friends having this conversation in front of a shop: "Say, some of the guys are getting together later down at Duke's for a bear. Why don't you come along?" What does 'down' mean? Does it refer to a lower position, direction? By the way, during this part of conversation, they didn't use any sort of body gesture. Thank you.

Hello Hosseinpour,

We use 'down' in this way in informal speech. It does not carry any directional sense but is simply a less formal way to describe some locations:

The station is (down) at the end of the road.

Let's meet (down) at the bar.

He went (down) to the university last week to discuss this.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Hello dear Peter,
Thank you. Thanks a lot.

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