Definite Articles This presentation defines when to use the definite article "the" in English grammar

  • There are two types of articles in English: definite (the) and indefinite (a, an, some). The use of each article depends on whether specific or general reference is made to any member of a group.
  • This presentation will focus on definite articles.
  • There is a practice quiz a the end of this presentation to asses your knowledge.

definite articles

The definite article the is used before both singular and plural specific nouns that indicate a particular member of a group.

Example: "The cat" refers to a particular cat; whereas, "a cat" could refer to any cat.


The definite article the indicates a particular member of a group.

The is used when the noun cannot be counted.

  • The coffee I had this morning was too sweet.
  • The ink in my pen has run out.

The is not used with non-countable nouns that refer to something in the general sense unless the non-countable noun is made more specific by a modifying phrase or clause.

  • Coffee is my favorite drink; the coffee that I had this morning was stale.


To refer to something that has already been mentioned.
  • An elephant and a mouse fell in love. The mouse loved the elephant's long trunk, and the elephant loved the mouse's tiny nose.
When both the speaker and the listener know what is being talked about, even if it has not been mentioned before.
  • "Where is the bathroom?"
  • "It's on the first floor."
To refer to objects we regard as unique.
  • The sun
  • The moon
  • The world
In sentences or clauses where we define a particular person or object.
  • The man who wrote this book is famous.
  • My house is the one with a blue door.
Before superlatives and ordinal numbers.
  • The highest building
  • The first page
  • The last chapter
With names of geographical areas and oceans.
  • The Caribbean
  • The Sahara
  • The Atlantic
With decades, or groups of years.
  • She grew up in the seventies.

Test your knowledge!


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