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

Comments

In the previous article, you described the case when we must `use a/an with a singular noun to say something about all things of that kind`, but in this article, you say `We also use the definite article: to say something about all the things referred to by a noun:`. Which of these is true?

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,
Kirk
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.

 

Peter

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.

 

Peter

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'.

 

Peter

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 :-)!!!

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