Definite Article in English

The definite article the is used in the following cases:

Explanations Examples
With singular countable nouns,
with plural countable nouns,
and uncountable nouns
the man
the shoes
the water
When we talk about people or things which we mentioned before I met a girl and a boy. I didn’t like the boy much, but the girl was very nice.
I have found a coinThe coin is worth 50p.
His car struck a tree; you can still see the mark on the tree.
When we say which things or people we mean Who is the man over there talking to Sue?
When it is clear from the situation which things or people we mean “Where’s Simon?” “He’s in the bathroom.”
( = the bathroom in this house)
Could you switch on the light? ( = the light in this room)
I got into a taxi. The driver asked me where I wanted to go. ( = the driver of the taxi that I got into)
When there is only one unique thing the sun
the moon
the sky
the earth
the world
When we talk about specific things or people These are the shoes which I bought last week.
(=the particular shoes which I bought last week)
Could you pass the milk, please?
(=the particular milk on the table)
I like horses. (=horses in general)
Look at the horses in that field. (=the particular horses)
He only cares about money. (=money in general)
Where is the money I gave you yesterday?
(=the particular money)
We sometimes use the with singular countable nouns when we talk about something in general. It takes place with names of animals, flowers or plants. The dolphin is an intelligent animal.
(=dolphins in general)
The orchid is a beautiful flower. (=orchids in general)
We use the when we talk in general about musical instruments and inventions. She can play the guitar and the piano.
Marconi invented the radio.
Some common expressions with the have general meaning: the town
the country/side
the sea/side
the mountains
the rain
We can use the in front of some adjectives e.g.youngoldrichpoorblind with general meaning. The young should listen to the old.
( = young people in general; old people in general )
We use the with nationalities e.g. English, Italian, French, Swiss, Japanese when we mean ‘the people of the country’. The English drink a lot of tea.
With the nouns described by a phrase, expression or sentence: the girl in blue
the man with the banner
the boy that I met
the place where I met him
With superlative adjectives and with firstsecondetc. used as adjectives or adverbs and only: the first week
the best day
the only way
When we refer to something which is unique in a specific place. Mrs Robertson heard that the church had been bombed.
He decided to put some words on the blackboard.
We use the with singular nouns when we refer to the system or service. I don’t like using the phone.
How long does it take on the train?
We use the with parts of the world, regions whose names include northsoutheast, or west.
Warning: there are some exceptions e.g.: North America
the Middle East
the Far East
the north of England
the west of Ireland
With nouns which represent only one specific thing because of its location: Could you switch on the light? ( = the light in this room )
Ann is in the garden. ( = the garden of this house )
the postman ( = the one who comes to us )
the car ( our car )
the newspaper ( = the one we read )
With the following nouns when they are used with their primary meaning connected with entertainment the cinema
the opera
the races
the pictures
the theatre
the radio
People often prefer watching TV to going to the cinema.
Yesterday, my fiancé suggested we should go to the theatre.
With musical instruments when we refer to ‘playing’: She can play the guitar and the piano.
With specific or special meal: I met him at the dinner given by the Browns.
When we talk about something in general, we use plural nouns and uncountable nouns without the.
but when we talk about something specific we use the.
Shoes are expensive. ( = shoes in general )
Milk is good for you. ( = milk in general )
These are the shoes which I bought last week.
( = the particular shoes )
Could you pass the milk, please?
( = the particular milk on the table )
He only cares about money. ( = money in general )
Where is the money I gave you yesterday?
( = the particular money )
When a noun refers to a set as a whole and when we make generalisations about the whole set of animals or inanimate nouns: The cat drinks a lot of milk.
The lemon has vitamins in.
But the word man, when it represents the mankind, is used without article. If oil supplies run out, man may have to fall back on the horse.
With adjectives used in superlative form and show comparison: Mary Hailey in the most intelligent girl in the class. (in comparison with the other girls in the class)
This is the biggest apple I have ever seen. (in comparison with all the other apples I have ever seen)
That’s the longer of the two shirts.
That’s the more expensive of the two cars.
With ordinal numbers That’s the fourth time you’ve made such a mistake.
Sofia is not the first capital of Bulgaria
With same Mary always invites the same people.
Ann has got the same shirt as I have
When the name is used in plural: the Quirks
the Sidneys
When there is a person or place with the same name and it is necessary to determine which one we are talking about Is that the Mary Brown?
I don’t mean the Warsaw in the United States.
When we want to emphasise that the person mentioned is the one known by everybody Was this book written by the Hemingway?
Are you going to the Monte Carlo?
When we refer to a place in a specific period of time This is not the Paris I used to know.
The New York of our epoch has become a dangerous place to live in.
With last and next when we refer to the nearest days, weeks, months etc.: I met him the last week of our holiday. (not the week before the present one)
I hope to see you the next week after the end of our holiday. (not the week after the present one)
Before a small group of adjectives which denote a group of people The unemployed should be given some money. (the class of people who are unemployed ) The brave are not always rewarded. (the class of people who are brave )
With adjectives which denote nationality and refer to a group of people The French often spend their free time abroad. ( the class of French people )
The Scottish are famous for their miserliness. (the class of Scottish people )
With some adjectives which change into abstract nouns The good characterizes his behaviour.
The bad is not a feature of Tom’s character.
With fixed expressions which consist of a comparative adjective and follow the pattern: the more the better The sooner you start your work the better.
The quicker you work the better for you
With gerund denoting an activity/state which is defined by a noun She has done the cooking.
We say go to sea/be at sea (without the) when we mean: go/be on a voyage Ken is a seaman. He spends most of his life at sea.
I would love to live near the sea. (not “near sea”)
We say space (not “the space“) when we mean the space in universe There are millions of stars in space. (not “in the space”)
He tried to park his car but the space wasn’t big enough.
We use the + singular countable noun, when we talk about the kind of machine or invention etc. When was the telephone invented?
The bicycle is an excellent means of transport
oceans the Pacific (Ocean)
the Atlantic (Ocean)
seas the Baltic (Sea)
the Black Sea
rivers the Vistula
the Nile
the River Thames or
the Thames
canals the Panama Canal
the Suez Canal
deserts the Sahara
the Kalahari
groups of islands the Canaries
the West Indies
the Bahamas
mountain ranges the Alps
the Tatras
exceptions: before names of towns/cities the Hague
the Piraeus
countries if their name includes the following words:
KingdomUnionRepublic or State
The United Kingdom
The People’s Republic of China
The United States
exceptions: The Netherlands
the Philippines
regions the Middle East
the Far East
the north of England

Indefinite Article in English

The indefinite article the is used in the following cases:

Explanations Examples
With singular countable nouns: I have a book.
I can see a mountain.
When a singular countable noun is mentioned for the first time: I have bought a house.
Yesterday I met a friend.
When a singular countable noun is used as an example of an element representing all elements which belong to the group: An elephant is heavy.
(i.e. “any elephant” or “all elephants”)
In spring, a tree is green.
(i.e. In spring, all trees are green.)
When a singular countable noun is used as a complement of a verb: be or become Ernest Hemingway was a writer.
Isaac Newton became a great scientist.
In exclamatory sentences with a singular countable noun: What a nice day!
What a charming person!
With few (used with a countable noun) and little(used with an uncountable noun) which denote “small number” or “small amount” I have a few friends. (i.e. “several friends”)
I have a little fortune. (i.e. “some money” – positive meaning)
Expressions of price, speed etc: two pounds a dozen
eighty miles an hour
With Mr./Mrs./Miss + surname, when the person mentioned is unknown for the speaker: a Mr. Brown which means “a man called Brown”
With a surname when we want to say that the person we are talking about has characteristics of the owner of the surname: He was an Einstein of his time.
Tom will never be a Nelson.
With certain numerical expressions: a dozen
a thousand = one thousand
and with such expressions like:
a lot of
a great deal
With uncountable nouns preceded by an adjective: He has a strong character.
Do you know that Robert Wilson has a good knowledge of Chinese?
With superlative adjectives followed by nouns: This is a better strawberry.
This is a more interesting book.
With superlative adjectives followed by a noun. In this case the word most means ‘very’ or ‘extremely’: Tom Smith is a most intelligent boy. (i.e. ‘a very intelligent boy’)
Professor Brown gave a most interesting lecture. (i.e. a very interesting lecture)

Zero Article in English

The zero article the is used in the following cases:

Explanations Examples
With a singular countable noun when we address somebody: What is the matter, Doctor?
Don’t worry, Mother. I will be O.K.
With plural countable nouns when they represent all the elements which belong to the group: Elephants are big animals.
Oranges have vitamins in.
When a plural countable countable noun denotes the number of indefinite elements: There are people in the street.
Students often stay at colleges.
When a plural countable noun is preceded by be or become: The Browns are engineers.
Mrs. Smith’s daughters became actresses.
With abstract nouns such as: beautytruth, etc. Beauty is truth.
With names of materials such as: woodglass, etc. Chairs are made of wood.
This vase is made of glass
Some of the above-mentioned nouns can be used as countable nouns and then they are preceded by the indefinite article a wood (i.e. “a small forest”)
a glass (i.e. “a mirror” or “a drinking vessel”)
There is a wood not far from my cottage.
I got a glass as a birthday present.
With such uncountable nouns as moneymilk, etc.: Lily needs money.
One should drink milk.
The above-mentioned nouns can be preceded by such expressions as: somea lot of, etc. Lily needs some money.
One should drink a lot of milk.
In exclamatory sentences when uncountable or plural countable nouns are used: What dirt! 
What flowers! 
except:
What a waste! 
What a pity!
With few and little when we express small number or small amount I have few friends. (i.e. ‘almost no friends’)
I have little sugar. (i.e. ‘almost no sugar’)
When a singular countable noun is used after be and become and denotes a unique job/profession John Kennedy was President.
Karol Wojtyla became Pope.
When a noun is used after turn He turned musician and made a great career.
He turned spy and was imprisoned.
When a noun refers to an institution which is only one of its kind When will parliament begin its session?
When does school end?
With two or more nouns when they refer to a couple of people or a couple of inanimate things Father and mother went to the cinema.
She was studying day and night before her final exams.
When a noun is used in notes, signs, headlines, telegraphs etc. Private road.
Design flaw feared.
With some nouns which are only one of their kind Heaven
Hell
Paradise
With the names of seasons, months, days of the week summer
April
Sunday
With nouns preceded by a pronoun or an adjective my shirt
my white shirt
With names of meals, except when they are preceded by an adjective: We have breakfast at eight.
He gave us a good breakfast.
The indefinite article is used when we talk about a special meal prepared to celebrate something or welcome somebody: I was invited to dinner. (in the ordinary way)
I was invited to a dinner given to welcome the new ambassador.
With the following nouns when the places named are used for their primary purpose bed
goal
school
court
church
hospital
sea
prison
college
market
university
We learn at school.
When he became seriously ill, he was taken to hospital.
but:
My bus stops opposite the school.
Yesterday, I was allowed to go to the hospital to see my cousin.
With a noun sea when we talk about sailors or passengers We go to sea as sailors.
to be at sea = to be on a voyage as passengers or crew
But when we talk about sea as a seaside then we use the He was at the sea (at the seaside)
When he was young he lived by/near the sea.
When the speaker refers to his/her own town We go to town sometimes to buy clothes.
We were in town last Monday.
With surnames Professor Smith 
Adam Brown
With holidays Christmas
Easter
With the names of some magazines/newspapers Time
Newsweek
With the names of some organizations British Rail
British Airways
With the names of some buildings, bridges and streets Wetback Mansion
London Bridge
Regent Street
With man when we denote ‘mankind Man constantly changes his natural environment.
continents Africa
South America
countries, counties, states Poland
Oxfordshire
Vermont
towns, cities and villages New York
Tokyo
Wilkowyje
single islands unless their name include a preposition Malta
Corsica
Crete
Long Island
The Isle of Wight
The Isle of Man
lakes Lake Baikal
Lake Victoria
single mountains unless their name include a preposition Mount Everest
Mount Blanc
The Mountain of the Seven Sights
streets Oxford Street
Broadway
expressions such as: day by day
from dawn to dusk
hand in hand
from beginning to end
face to face
from west to east
With abstract nouns which are used with general meaning Some people like risk.
With the noun home when we refer to the speaker’s or listener’s house It’s late I have to go home.
If you don’t feel well, you should stay at home.
With last and next when we refer to the nearest days, weeks, months, etc. I met him last week.
(i.e. “the week before the present one”)
I hope to see you next week.
(i.e. “the week after the present one”)
With gerund when an activity / state expressed by the gerund is not definite Mrs. Thompson likes cooking.
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