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DEFINITE ARTICLE: THE



  • We use "the" when the person we are talking to knows which person or thing we mean.
  • We use "the" when we are referring back to someone or something.
  • We use "the" when we are specifying which person or thing we are talking about.
  • We use "the" when we are referring to something that is unique.
  • We use "the" when we want to use one thing as an example to say something about all things of the same type.
  • 1. The is called the definite article and is the commonest determiner. We use "the" when the person we are talking to knows which person or thing we mean. We can use "the" in front of any noun whether it is a singular count noun an uncount noun or a plural count noun.

    She dropped the can.

    I remembered the fun I had with them.

    The girls were not at home.

    2. We use "the" with a noun when we are referring back to someone or something that has already been mentioned.

    I called for a waiter ... ... The waiter with a moustache came.

    I have bought a house in Wales ... ... The house is in an agricultural area.

    3. We use "the" with a noun and a qualifier such as a prepositional phrase or a relative clause when we are specifying which person or thing we are talking about.

    I've no idea about the geography of Scotland.

    The book that I recommended now costs over three pounds.

    4. We use "the" with a noun when we are referring to something of which there is only one in the world.

    They all sat in the sun.

    We have landed men on the moon.

    The sky was a brilliant blue.

    We also use "the" when we are referring to something of which there is only one in a particular place.

    Mrs Robertson heard that the church had been bombed.

    He decided to put some words on the blackboard.

    5. We can use "the" with a singular count noun when vou want to make a general statement about all things of that type. For example, if we say "The whale is the largest mammal in the world", we mean all whales, not one particular whale.

    The computer allows us to deal with a lot of data very quickly.

    My father's favourite flower is the rose.

    6. We can use "the" with a singular count noun when we are referring to a system or service. For example, we can use "the phone" to refer to a telephone system and "the bus" to refer to a bus service.

    I don't like using the phone.

    How long does it take on the train?

    7. We can use "the" with the name of a musical instrument when we are talking about someone's ability to play the instrument.

    "We play the guitar, I see," said Simon.

    Geoff plays the piano very well.


    Other uses of "the"

    Main points

    • We do not normally use "the" with proper nouns referring to people. We do use "the" with many proper nouns referring to geographical places.
    • We use "the" with some adjectives to talk about groups of people.

    1. We do not normally use "the" with proper nouns that are people's names. However, if we are talking about a family, we can say "the Browns".

    We use "the" with some titles such as "the Queen of England" and with the names of some organizations, buildings, newspapers, and works of art.

    ... the United Nations ... ... the Taj Mahal ...

    ... the Times ... ... the Mona Lisa ...

    2. We do use "the" with some proper nouns referring to geographical places.

    ... the Bay of Biscay ... ... the Suez Canal ...

    ... the Arabian Gulf ... ... the Pacific Ocean ...

    We use "the" with countries whose names include words such as "kingdom", "republic", "states", or "union".

    ... the United Kingdom ... ... the Soviet Union ...

    Yon use "the" with countries that have plural nouns as their names.

    ... the Netherlands ... ... the Philippines ...

    Note that we do not use "the" with countries that have singular nouns as their names such as "China", "Italy", or "Turkey".

    We use "the" with names of mountain ranges and groups of islands.

    ... the Alps ... ... the Himalayas ...

    ... the Bahamas ... ... the Canaries ...

    Note that we do not use "the" with the names of individual mountains such as "Everest" or "Etna" or the names of individual islands such as "Sicily", "Minorca", or "Bali".

    We use "the" with regions of the world, or regions of a country that include "north", "south", "east", or "west".

    ... the Middle Fast ... ... the Far East ...

    ... the north of England ... ... the west of Ireland ...

    Note that there are some exceptions.

    ... North America ... ... South East Asia ... ... East Anglia ...

    We do not use "the" with "northern", "southern", "eastern", or "western" and a singular name.

    ... northern England ... ... western Africa ...

    We use "the" with the names of areas of water such as seas, oceans, rivers, canals, gulfs, and straits.

    ... the Mediterranean Sea ... ... the Atlantic Ocean ...

    ... the river Ganges ... ... the Panama Canal ...

    ... the Gulf of Mexico ... ... the straits of Gibraltar ...

    Note that we do not use "the" with lakes.

    ... Lake Geneva ... ... Lake Superior ...

    Note that we do not use "the" with continents, cities, streets, or addresses.

    ... Asia ... ...Tokyo ... ... Oxford Street ... ... 15 Park Street ...

    3. We use "the" with adjectives such as "rich", "poor", "weng", "old", and "unemployed" to talk about a general group of people. We do not need a noun.

    Only the rich could afford his firm's products.

    They were discussing the problem of the unemployed.

    When we use "the" with an adjective as the subject of a verb, we use a plural verb.

    In the cities the poor are as badly off as they were in the villages.

    4. We use "the" with some nationality adjectives to talk about the people who live in a country.

    They will be increasingly dependent on the support of the French.

    The Spanish claimed that the money had not been paid.

    With other nationalities we use a plural noun.

    ... Germans ... ... the Americans ...

    When we use "the" with a nationality adjective as the subject of a verb we use a plural verb.

    The British are worried.

    5. We use "the" with superlatives.

    He was the cleverest man I ever knew.

    He was the wengest.

    His shoulders hurt the worst.

    It was the most exciting summer of their lives.



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