The definite article is the.The definite article is used with singular and plural nouns. It is used both with countable nouns and uncountable nouns:
- to make definite or specific reference to a person or a thing that has already been referred to.
- There’s the man I was telling you about!
- to refer to a person or thing that is already specific because of what those talking already know. In the first example below, ‘the children’ would be members of our family and ‘the swimming pool’ is the swimming pool we normally go to.
- Let’s take the children to the swimming pool.
- Did you switch the heating on?
- There were drinks in the fridge but the beer was soon finished.
- to generalize about a whole class or species, usually of plants or animals. A singular noun is used for this purpose. The first example means ‘The elephant species is hunted.’
- The elephant is still hunted for its tusks.
- The snowdrop is the first flower to arrive in the new year.
- when it is followed by an adjective used as a noun indicating nationality or when generalizing about a whole class of people. The Dutch in the first example means ‘Dutch people in general’.
- The Dutch are very skilful engineers.
- The poor were crowding the streets of the capital.
- The homeless were sheltered in the church.
- before the names of rivers, groups of islands, seas, oceans, and mountain ranges.
|The Thames||The Hebrides|
|The North Sea||The Pacific|
- before the names of certain public institutions, most newspapers, and some magazines.
|The British Museum||The Hilton Hotel|
|The Lyceum Theatre||The Houses of Parliament|
|The Independent||The Guardian|
|The Listener||The New Scientist|
- before parts of the body when these are referred to in an impersonal way.
- A stone struck him on the hand.
- Martin hit him on the head.
- The definite article is rarely used with titles. Proper nouns that refer to persons, such as Sue and Ron, and proper nouns used in conjunction with titles, such as Queen Elizabeth, Doctor Thomas, and Captain Parry, only take a definite article if:
- they stand for the name of a thing such as a boat.
- The Queen Elizabeth II is on a long cruise.
- a distinction is being made between people who have identical names. This use can give emphasis to the noun.
- Ah, no. The David Parry I know lives in Manchester.
- I saw Paul Kay in town this morning. – Not the Paul Kay?