Definite articles

In English, the only definite article is the. It precedes singular and plural nouns and noun phrases. It’s used in three main contexts.

1.  The precedes a noun or noun phrase that needs no further qualification—for example:

The weather was horrible.

The Senate is a mob of 100 wholly owned political subsidiaries. [USA Today]

[S]omeone reported being bitten by a dog. The dog was quarantined. [The Umpqua Post]

2.  The precedes a thing that is about to be clarified. Here are three examples in one sentence (the fourth the being of the first type):


The earthquake that hit Haiti last month destroyed the house of the man who owns the world’s largest collection of Haitian art. [Guardian]

3.  When a mass noun calls for an article, the is used:

the furniture

the poetry

the beauty


Check Your Text


  1. William Hively says:

    Is this word pronounced differently depending whether the next word starts with a vowel or consonant? Does “the apple” = “the banana?”

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