Definite Article (Basic)



Use of 'The' for a Particular Person or Thing

'The' is used for a particular person or thing, perhaps already referred to.
For example:

Example 1:
"The book he wrote was never published."
Which book? The book he wrote.

Example 2:
"The lady wore a pink dress."
Which lady? The lady we already talked about.

Example 3:
"Let's play in the garden."
Which garden? The garden next to the house.


Use of 'The' for a Whole Class

'The' can be used to represent a whole class.
For example:

Example 1:
"The horse is a beautiful animal."
'The horse' refers to the whole class of horses.

Example 2:
"The teacher is a useful member of society."
'The teacher' refers to the whole class of teachers.


Use of 'The' before Some Proper Nouns

'The' is sometimes used before proper nouns.
For example:
  1. Oceans: the Pacific ocean
  2. Rivers: the Nile
  3. Canals: the Suez canal
  4. Deserts: the Sahara desert
  5. Groups of islands: the West Indies
  6. Mountain ranges: the Himalayas
  7. Some countries: the Netherlands, the United States of America


Use of 'The' before Unique Things

'The' may be used before things that are unique of their kind such as the sun, the sky, the sea, the earth and so on. 
For example: "Look at the sun!"


Use of 'The' before an Adjective or Adjectival Clause

'The' may be used when a proper noun is qualified by an adjective or a defining adjectival clause.
Consider the following examples:
Example 1:
"The great king."
The adjective great qualifies the king
Example 2:
"The beloved writer."
The adjective beloved qualifies the writer


Use of 'The' with Superlatives

'The' may be used with superlatives.
For example:
  1. "The most famous statesman"
  2. "The whitest shirt"


Use of 'The' with Ordinals

Ordinal is an adjective which describes the numerical position of an object. For instance, first, twentieth and so on. 
'The' may be used with ordinals.
For example:
  1. "He was the first man to walk on the moon."
  2. "The ninth person in the queue is my aunt."


Use of 'The' before Musical Instruments

'The' may be used before musical instruments.
For example:
  1. "He can play the piano very well."
  2. "She learned to play the violin from her father."


Use of 'The' Before an Adjective When the Noun is Understood

'The' may be used as an adjective when the noun is understood.
For example:

Example 1:
"The rich feast and make merry."
'The rich' implies 'rich people'.

Example 2:
"The humble will be loved by all."
'The humble' implies 'humble people'.


Use of 'The' to give Emphasis

'The' is used with an emphasis in order to give the force of a superlative.
For example:
Example 1:
"The mayor is the citizen of the town." 
This means, the mayor is the most important citizen of the town.
Example 2:
"Red is the colour of the day."
This means, red is the most significant colour of the day.


Use of 'The' as an Adverb with Comparatives

'The' may be used as an adverb with comparatives.
For example:
  1. "The more the merrier."
  2. "The more they receive, the more they request."


Use of 'The' in Other Cases

  1. The definite article 'the' may be used in many different cases to point out something specific. For example, it could be used to denote a specific period of time: the eighties, the 1920s. 
  2. 'The' is also used before clauses that begin with only: It was the only supermarket in town. 
  3. We also use 'the' before the names of countries which are plural: the Maldives, the Netherlands. 
  4. We use 'the' for names of families (not for each individual). For instance, The Robertsons, The Smiths.