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Use of the definite Article – the and No Article

1. We use the when we are talking about a specific person or thing (noun), or if there is only one, or if it is clear which one we are talking about.

  • She took a glass of water and started to drink. (one of many glasses of water)
  • She took the glass of water nearest to her. (a specific glass)
  • She took the glass of water and started to drink. (there is only one glass of water)
  • Can you turn on the TV? (it’s clear we are talking about the TV in this room)
  • I have to see the doctor tomorrow. (it’s clear I am talking about my usual doctor)
  • I need to see a doctor. (not any specific doctor)
  • How many people have walked on the moon? (there is only one moon)
  • The best film I’ve ever seen is Top Gun. (there can only be one best film)

2. We use no article when we are talking about people or things in general.

  • Vegetables are good for you. (vegetables in general)
  • The vegetables growing in my garden are almost ready to eat. (specific vegetables)
  • English people drink a lot of tea. (English people in general)
  • The English people in this hotel are very nice. (specific English people)

3. With school, university, prison, hospital, church, bed, work and home we use the when we are talking about a particular one, and no article when we are talking about the idea of school, university…

  • The temple on our street was built in the 17th Century. (a particular church)
  • I go to temple every Monday (the idea of temple, not a particular building)
  • My friend works at the prison outside the city centre.
  • My husband is in prison.
  • The work isn’t finished yet.
  • I was feeling sick yesterday so I didn’t go to work.
  • The new bed is bigger than the old one.
  • I went to bed at 8pm.

3. We use the with singular countable nouns to talk about a type of thing.

  • The computer was invented in the 20th Century. (not a particular computer)
  • The computer in my office is broken. (a particular one)
  • The crocodile is very dangerous. (this type of animal)
  • The crocodile in the river is very big. (a particular one)
  • She plays the guitar. (not a particular piano but this type of instrument)
  • The guitar she is playing is very old. (a particular one)

4. We use the + adjective to talk about a group of people (including nationalities).

  • I always give money to the poor.
  • The unemployed receive help from the government.
  • The French produce good wine.

5. We use no article with continents, countries, regions, cities, streets, mountains, lakes and parks.

  • Africa, India, Mumbai, Chicago, Mount Everest

6. We use the if the country contains Kingdom, Republic, State, Union

  • The United Kingdom, The Czech Republic

7. We use the with plural names of people and places.

  • The Aggarwals, The Netherlands, The United States of America, The Himalayas

8. We use the with oceans, seas, rivers and canals.

  • The Indian Ocean, The Arabian Sea, The Ganga, The Indira Canal

9. We use the with north, south, east and west to talk about the location of a place within another place, but no article to compare the location of two places.

  • Greece is in the south of Europe.
  • France is north of Spain.

10. We use no article with northern, southern, eastern and western:

  • Chennai is in southern part of India.

11. We normally use the with buildings, except if the first word is the name of a place (No Article)

  • The White House, The Sheraton Hotel.
  • Oxford University, Buckingham Palace.

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