When to Use “THE” Article in English Language Grammar

Multiple students have written to our Go Natural English team asking “Can you please tell us when we can or should use “THE” as an article in English?”. It may be that in your native language you do not use articles in the same way that we do in English. The key is to know how and why to use “the”. If this is something that has always confused you, then you need to watch Gabby’s video “When to Use “The” Article in English Language Grammar”.

The is a definite article. This means that were are talking about something definite, specific, and clear to understand. For example “the love of my life” which is specific and maybe refers to someone you are a romantically linked to – like your partner. But love, in general, is complex and difficult to define, and so can mean many things! So you would not put a “the” before it, just like the Beatles song “All You Need is Love”. It is a song about love in general, so there is no “the” placed before love. There are five ways to clarify how and why to use “the” in English grammar.   

Things That are Universally Known

We can put a “the” in front of certain things that everyone in the world knows about.

The moon

The sun

The earth

The stars

Common General Locations & Places Around Cities

We can put a “the” in front of common places around the city when we are speaking.

The post office

The Doctor’s office

The hospital

The movie theatre

The park

Note: If you put “a” in front of one of a place, it is non-specific and means you are meaning “in general”.

Example: “I need to get to a bank sometime today”

Certain Countries

We can put a “the” in front of certain countries when we are mentioning them. 

The USA

The Netherlands

The United Arab Emirates

The Isle of Mann

The United Kingdom

Time

We can use “the” in front of a time that is specific or linked to a specific memory.

Do you have the time?

Do you remember the time when we egged Mr. Burn’s mansion?

Do you remember the time the sun was eclipsed by the moon?

Note: if you use “a time”, it is for a time that is nonspecific.

Example: “Do you have a time we would meet?”

Singular Count Nouns

Use “the” when you are speaking about singular count nouns.

The cat is watching us from the window.

The tree was too tall to climb.

The dog stole my slice of pizza right from my hand.

Watch Gabby explain in detail now about when to use “the” article in English language grammar.

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