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The Definite Article

Definite Article: English Grammar can certainly be tricky, we understand. There could be many rules to remember and exceptions along with it. But in this chapter, we assure you, there’s only one word to learn about- one of the most commonly used words– the. That’s right- the word the is the only Definite Article that there is. The one true king of its kind. Before we take you to a branch, we’d like to paint the tree for you to understand best. Let’s take a quick overview of what articles are, let’s get started:

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Articles are words that refer to or point out the noun. There are only three articles in English grammar – the, an and a, and they are categorized into two broad categories- definite and indefinite. These three have their different uses:

An: As a thumb rule, you can remember that all the words that start with a vowel SOUND will take an before them. Why did we emphasize on the sound? Well, we all have learnt in earlier grades that there are 5 vowels in english grammar – a, e, i, o u. A common myth is that an goes before only the words that start with these vowel letters. Like an artist, an elephant, and such.

But interestingly, vowels in english are not about the letters a, e, i, o, u in written, but their sounds. In written english, there can be consonants that take an  before them. For example, an hour, an honor. But can you say an hospital? We are afraid not. And here’s why: The word “hospital” begins with the sound of “h” which is not a vowel. So what goes before “hospital”? That leads us to our another article, a.

A: Quite simple, anything which is not a vowel sound is a consonant. Remember, it’s the speech form that matters and not the written form. Some examples of this are- a cupboard, a giraffe, a brand. Well, now we know what goes before “hospital”, it’s hospital.

Now that you have a sufficient understanding of articles and their usage, let’s pick our first champion of the clan. What we are discussing in this article is about the only definite article- the and it’s correct usage. Let’s get straight into the only Definite article, shall we?

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Usage of Definite Article

definite article

  1. Before a noun, when we refer to a someone or something that has already been mentioned before. If the context is already set for a noun, the can be used after that. Let’s see an example:
  • “I have found a golf course in Bayron area. The golf course is quite widespread.” Let’s break this one down- Here in the first sentence, the golf course is being mentioned for the first time. It’s context is not set before, it’s brand new information. But in the sentence that follows, the golf course has already been mentioned once. Context for the noun is set and therefore, the user is familiar with the noun. That’s why the is used in the second sentence. Let’s see a few more examples that re-iterate this phenomenon.
  • “A cat got in a fight with our dog last night. The cat actually won.”
  • “I bought a new house at a Greek Peninsula. The house is very expensive.”

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2. When the nouns are already known to the user: Use the example mentioned in the first use case: “I have found a golf course in Bayron area. The golf course is quite widespread.” What if the golf course is already known to the reader already? In that case, we can start using the because the user already knows about the golf course. An example here:

  • “Rachel is wearing the dress.” In this case, the users must already be aware of the dress being talked about. Context is already set, users are familiar to the specific dress.
  • “The men were not in the car.” Both the men and the car are known to the user already.

3. Before nouns that are unique: Like the sun, the moonthe Arabian sea, the Bermuda triangle, the Eiffel tower, the Himalayas and so on. In such cases, there is no need to set a context before as these are already one and only and hence very specific. If you see the example of the Golf course above, golf courses are many and hence there was a need to specify which one is being talked about specifically. On the other hand, nouns that are unique such as the sun or the moon are already specific and unique.

4. Superlative adjectives that are used as definite nouns. Basically, for someone and something exclusive. An example will set this straight for you:

  • “My grandma cooks the best cookies in the world.”
  • “At 3307 ft. high, Jeddah Tower is the tallest structure in the world.”
  • “My kid sister is the most annoying person in the house.”

5. Before adjectives used as nouns. Usually used in phrases or advice. Check out some examples:

  • “It is the duty of the strong to support the week.”
  • “Fortune favours the brave.”

6. With Proper nouns: Names of countries, plural names of countries, some titles, some organisations, some buildings, newspapers, works of art, specific family names, mountains, rivers, seas, groups of islands, and deserts.

  • The Indian ocean, the Bay of Bengal, the Netherlands, the Caspian, the United States of America, the Taj Mahal, the Times of India, the Suez Canal, the Bay of Bengal, the Guptas.

7. With nationalities:

  • The British ruled India for 200 years.”
  • The Belgian chocolate is impossible to resist.”

Even if nationality is in the plural. Like:

  • The Indians aced in chess at the championship.”
  • The Americans.”

8. With mentions of service or systems like:

  • “Check the radio for latest news on the cyclone.”
  • “We should go to the police.”
  • “We should take this to the consumer court.”

9. With some Comparative statements:

  • “The higher above the sea level we go, the . harder it becomes to breathe.”
  • The more I run, the more he chases me.”

Now that we have covered almost all use cases of the definite articles, it will be intriguing to compare these cases to the other family of articles – Indefinite articles.

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