Using the Definite Article

In grammar, articles are tiny words that go before a noun to describe them.

The main use of articles is to indicate whether the noun is indefinite or definite. That’s why they are also called ‘determiners’ at times.

There are only three articles in grammar - a, an and the.

But even for such a tiny population, we divide them into two groups- definite and indefinite.

Let’s learn about the definite article.

There is only one definite article “the” which is used with nouns or noun phrases to specify them in a sentence.

‘The’ identifies specific or definite nouns. That’s why we call it a definite article.

Let’s learn about the various uses of the definite article.

Generally, when we talk about a particular person or thing, we use THE to specify the noun.

In this example, we say 'the boy' because we are referring to a specific boy and not just any boy.

THE is also used when a particular noun has already been mentioned previously.

In the sentence, the noun (bag) is mentioned in the first sentence. We use THE to refer to the very same bag later.

Let’s see some more examples of the usage of THE.

When a singular noun is meant to represent a whole class or species, THE goes before the noun.

See how the singular noun ‘elephant’ represents the entire species.

Sometimes, a distinction may have to be made between people who have identical names. In this case, THE is used before a proper noun.

Notice how THE is used before ‘David Parry’ which is a proper noun.

THE is only used with titles of books, newspapers etc. if it is part of the title itself.

If not a part of the title, we don’t put THE before it. So we say “Atlas Shrugged” and not “The Atlas Shrugged.”

The exception to this rule is that we generally use "the" before the names of holy books - The Bible or The holy Quran, The Gita, etc.

We use THE before unique objects like the sun, the moon, etc. to specify them. Eg: The moon looks beautiful.

For the same reason, we also use THE with a superlative adjective: to specify a particular type/quality of person or thing.

Since there is only one building in that context, we use THE to show its uniqueness.

We can also use THE with adjectives like rich, poor, elderly and unemployed to specify a group of people.

See how the adjective ‘poor’ denotes poor people in general.

We know that articles serve as adjectives to nouns. THE also takes the form of adverbs with comparatives.

See that the comparatives ‘longer’ and ‘better’ are preceded by THE.

Let’s look at some more ways in which THE is used.

Ordinal numbers (in words) like ‘first’, ‘second’, ‘tenth’, etc. use THE to specify them. Example: He is THE first in his family to go to college.

We also use the definite article to talk about musical instruments. Example: Joe plays THE piano really well.

Let’s recap!

THE is used to specify that certain objects or people are specific or unique.

THE can be used to specify a species or category.

THE can also be used with certain adjectives and adverbs.

THE is used before ordinals and musical instruments.

That’s all!