The definite article – the
1.1 The definite article – when to use it.
We use THE before a noun when the other person knows (or can work out) which thing we are referring to.
- Did you lock the door? (both know which door is meant)
- I took a taxi. (the listener does not know which taxi is being referred to)
The listener may know which thing we are talking about because:
1. We have mentioned it before
- They have two children: a boy and a girl. The boy is 10 and the girl is 14.
2. We say which one we mean
- The girl over there in the red dress.
3. It is clear from the situation
- The children are in the garden (which know which children and which garden)
4. There is only one
- The sun is very hot today
1.2 The definite article – when to use it.
The definite article the is the same for all genders in singular and in plural.
- the boy
- the girl
- the dogs
- the chairs
1.3 The definite article – how to pronounce it.
The is pronounced [ði:] if the following word begins with a vowel, and [ðə] if the following word begins with a consonant.
We have listed some examples in the following table so you can see when we use the definite article and when we don’t.
We use the seasons of the year (spring, summer, autumn, winter) with or without the definite article.
The American English word fall is always used with the definite article the.
Sometimes we use the article and sometimes we do not. It often depends on the context. Look at the following example:
- My husband is in prison.
- My husband is in the prison.
In the first sentence we do not use the definite article, in the second we do. The is in the prison for its primary purpose, so we do not use the article.
In the second the husband is in the prison for a different reason, maybe he works there or is visiting. That’s why we use the definite article the in the second sentence.