questions this week on the use of the definite article, the.
Xi from China writes:
I am a beginner but one question has troubled me for a long time.
It may be easy, but it is difficult for me. The question is: when
do we place the in front of a noun and when do we take it
from Pakistan writes: I am a bit confused this week about
the use of the definite article. Grammar books are too comprehensive
and don't satisfy me. I would like to know more about the use of
the definite article in daily language. Is this sentence correct:
'He has been working at the Indus Dolphin Reserve for over 25 years'?
before singular and plural nouns when you are talking about things
that both speakers know about.
your example, Raufhameed, both speakers know all about the dolphin
reserve, so use of the definite article is clearly correct.
'These are the books that I borrowed from the library.'
(We can see the books and we know where the library is.)
'Where are the stamps I bought yesterday?' (You know
the ones I mean. You were with me when I bought them.)
'What did you think of the film?' (I am talking about
the one you saw last night)
with certain geographical locations or areas, collections of states
or islands, mountain ranges, seas and rivers - if you are not sure
where any of the following places are, check them out in an atlas:
The People's Republic of China, The United Kingdom, The United States
of America, The Philippines, The Bahamas, The Netherlands, The Channel
Islands, The Far East, The Alps, The Andes, The Cairngorms, The
Himalayas, The Rockies, The Hindu Kush, The Pacific Ocean, The Mediterranean,
The Dead Sea, The Black Sea, The Arabian Sea, The Thames, The Yangtze,
The Ganges, The White Nile, The Mississippi, The Amazon
with groups of people, and with musical and scientific instruments
and animals when you are discussing them as categories:
'The hospital in Cheery Orchard Avenue is a hospital for the
elderly and infirm.'
'The poor are always disadvantaged in contemporary society.
'Matilda is learning to play the trumpet; her brother
plays the drums.'
'Who invented the telescope?' 'The first one was made
by Galileo in 1608.'
'The Bengali tiger is threatened with extinction.'
'The Manx cat is native to the Isle of Man.
always omit the definite article
when making general statements about things, people and abstract ideas.
In the following examples, a general statement
(= - the) is contrasted with a specific reference (= + the):
'I enjoy reading contemporary fiction - especially the novels
of David Lodge.'
'Poverty is one of the scourges of the 21st Century.'
'The poverty I witnessed in the inner city slums
'You don't often see people drinking beer at cocktail parties.'
when talking about particular countries, continents, towns, streets,
buildings, lakes and mountains: China, Pakistan, America, England,
(Great) Britain, South America, Central America.
'Genoa is in Northern
'Valencia is in Southern Spain.'
'They are both in Europe.'
Abbey is near Parliament Square - at the top end of Victoria Street.'
'Lake Windermere is in the Lake District.'
'Everest and K2 are the two
tallest mountains in the world.
when talking about transport, meals, games in general terms and with
certain time expressions, months, seasons, etc.
'I'm going by car,
but Andy's going by train.'
'Would you like to have lunch now?' 'I haven't
had breakfast yet!'
'In this school we play rugby in the autumn term
and football in the spring term. In summer everybody plays tennis.'
'Next Friday is the last day of term. In August the school is closed.'
further illustrations and explanations of how to use articles in English,
check the learnit archive and
search other questions. Go to the Determiners, nouns and pronouns
section and take a look particularly at the questions on the/a/an
and using articles with geographical names.