The Definite Article

The Definite Article

A Quick Guide by Malcolm Pemberton

We use ‘the’ when there is only one of something, either universally or locally:

The sky is blue. (There is only one sky.)

The sky looks beautiful tonight!

The Moon goes around the Earth. (We have only one moon and only one earth.)

You’ll find the introduction at the beginning of the book.

And even more locally, or if we want to clarify ‘which’ of something:

You’ll find towels in the bathroom. (If there is only one bathroom.)

You’ll find towels in the cupboard in the upstairs bathroom. (More than one bathroom.)

It’s sunny, let’s eat lunch in the garden. (Most of us only have one, or we already know which one.)

The bank is on the corner of High Street and Grange Road. (The bank we are talking about.)

The Town Hall is behind the Rewell Center. (Only one Town Hall, only one Rewell Center.)

The phone is in the hall. (One phone – one hall.)

Your dinner is in the bin and I’ve gone to the pub. (Doesn’t matter which bin, doesn’t matter which pub.)

We use ‘the’ with some generalities:

We have a cottage in the country(side).

We must take care of the environment.

The press were critical of the police and the government.

There was a programme about the universe on the news.

I sometimes go to the cinema, but rarely to the theatre. (Doesn’t matter which cinema or theatre.)

I rarely listen to the radio.

Noun + number = no ‘the’

We do not use ‘the’ with noun plus number – it acts like a name:

The Hogwarts’ train will arrive at Platform 9¾(The name of the platform.)

Flight BA 356 to Helsinki is boarding at Gate 33. (The name of the gate.)

Please take my luggage to Room 356. (The name of the room.)

I thought Question 8 was very difficult. (The name of the question.)

I refer you to Paragraph 6 on Page 3. (etc…)

Please get into Lifeboat 2, the ship is sinking!

No articles at mealtimes! We don’t use ‘the’ with meals (it is bad for the digestion 😉

Breakfast is served from seven-thirty until nine-thirty.

I eat lunch in the canteen.

The children come in for tea at five o’clock. (This is actually a meal, not a cup of tea.)

”I get too hungry for dinner at eight, that’s why the lady is a tramp.” (From the song.)

But: There were 100 people at the charity dinner. (This is when the meal is an event.)

We don’t use articles with names:

Britain is an island consisting of England, Scotland and Wales.

Europe is a sub-continent made up of many different countries and cultures.

Helsinki is the capital of Finland. (Note: only one capital per country.)

Chile and Peru are countries in South America.

Antarctica is becoming more accessible as the ice melts.

However – some things and places have ‘titles’ instead:

The Antarctic is the region surrounding Antarctica.

Holland is also known as the Netherlands.

The United States of America is situated in North America.

The River Thames flows into the North Sea.

You can sail from the Atlantic Ocean, through the Straits of Dover, into the North Sea.


We use ‘the’ with superlatives (there being only one, of course).

Everest is the highest mountain in the world.

The Marianas Trench is the deepest abyss on Earth.

The Nile is the longest river in the world.

Summer is the best season.

The same, next, last etc:

We use “the” with the following (the logic is again based on there being only one):

This is the same as mine.

The next train comes in ten minutes.

The last bus leaves town at 11 o’clock.

The first plane leaves at six a.m.

This one is mine, but you can have the other one.

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