This tag is for questions about the definite article.

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31
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5answers
8k views

Are there any simple rules for choosing the definite vs. indefinite (vs. none) article?

I can’t for the life of me figure out where to use a and where to use the — and where there is no article at all. Is there a simple rule of thumb to memorize? The standard rule you always hear: ...
24
votes
6answers
27k views

Why is it “on *the* one hand”?

According to all dictionaries I can see and everyday use by native speakers, this is the correct way: On the one hand, it's larger; on the other hand, it's more expensive. What makes no sense to ...
23
votes
6answers
4k views

What is the difference between Ukraine and the Ukraine?

Time magazine (March 5th) carries the article titled, “Ukraine, not the Ukraine: The significance of three little letters,” in which the following comment of William Taylor, who served as the U.S. ...
20
votes
10answers
9k views

About definite article before “Earth”, “Moon” and “Sun”

In what cases do we have to put the definite article the before each of these words: Sun Moon Earth and in what cases do we not need to?
18
votes
4answers
1k views

Why does the Sudan have a “the” in the name?

I am endlessly perplexed why the country Sudan has a the in the name: "I am from the Sudan". Why not "I am from the Kansas" or "the China"? I understand the the in "the United States" because a ...
17
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5answers
10k views

Using the definite article before a country/state name

The Punjab is a rich state. Is it correct to use the before Punjab?
15
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3answers
1k views

Definite article — “on television” vs. “on the radio”

Why are these different? We heard the news on the radio. We watched the news on television. In this book, the author says we must use television without the. Why? It makes me crazy. Is ...
14
votes
5answers
3k views

Omission of definite article with musical instruments

What is the rule for omitting/including the definite article in the following sentences: I used to play piano. I used to play the piano. I would pick the first sentence, but I've heard people ...
12
votes
5answers
2k views

Use of definite article before phrases like Heathrow Airport, Hyde Park, Waterloo Station, Edgware Road and Parliament Square

In this related question (Definite article with proper nouns, titles followed by a common noun), the OP asks if it is grammatical to use the definite article before phrases like Advanced programming ...
12
votes
2answers
1k views

Usage of English definite article when referring to generic word

My mother language does not have articles, so I still struggle to choose when to use the indefinte and definite article. The other day, I learned: "The dog is an animal" is acceptable. "The iron is ...
11
votes
3answers
6k views

Why use “the” for oceans/seas/rivers etc. but not lakes?

Possibly two questions in here: Are these sentence constructions logical, and if they are, why are they different? I swam across the Ocmulgee River. I swam across the Pacific Ocean. I swam ...
9
votes
5answers
1k views

Why is “the” dropped in “I go to school by bus”?

Why is the dropped in "I go to school by bus"? Why isn't it "I go to the school by the bus" if both school and bus are countable? Does the rule that a countable noun must have an article have an ...
9
votes
2answers
2k views

Capitalising the definite article in names

When I was a youngster some mumble-mumble-mumble decades ago, I was taught that, in the instances of names of persons, places, and things which carried the definite article the, the article wasn’t ...
9
votes
2answers
2k views

Is it necessary to use “the” multiple times?

It seems that the question has eventually become a series of questions.... Question 1 An example goes as: The 1st and (the) 2nd paragraphs of the article are extremely long. Is it necessary ...
9
votes
2answers
736 views

Are there specific rules to build expressions with or without articles?

In English, there are lots of expressions built using articles like: at the station to the cinema play the piano have breakfast (no article) take a bath take a shower Are there specific rules or ...
8
votes
2answers
836 views

Why do I want to say “the iPhone” instead of just “iPhone”?

Apple is somewhat notorious for omitting articles when talking about their products, and statements such as "People love iPhone" hit my ear a little strangely. But when I stopped to think about it, I ...
7
votes
4answers
14k views

“Time is of the essence”… of what?

I'm having a hard time understanding the purpose or meaning of the definite article, the in the common phrase, Time is of the essence. My first thought is that it refers to the task that is ...
7
votes
3answers
1k views

Usage of “a” and “the” in titles

Which one should I use for page title? Apple — Tasty Fruit Apple — A Tasty Fruit Apple — The Tasty Fruit The article is only about tasty apple.
7
votes
3answers
7k views

“talk over the phone” or “talk over phone”

We just talked over (the) phone. Should there be a "the" in front of "phone"? I.e., should "phone" be specific or not? If there should be a "the", should "phone" be "phones" instead,since there ...
7
votes
2answers
648 views

Definite or indefinite article in “the/a devil's advocate”

I can't quite figure out which of the following expressions is more correct: He is the devil's advocate. He is a devil's advocate. He is playing devil's advocate. The combination of an article ...
7
votes
2answers
3k views

Using “the” before ordinal numbers

When learning English I was told that ordinal numbers should always be used with "the" before them. But I often see that this is not always so strict, for example I heard the phrase "April first" ...
7
votes
4answers
105 views

Is it “Greetings from The sunny Hague” or “Greetings from sunny The Hague”?

If I were writing a postcard home from a sunny city, I would normally put the adjective just before the proper noun like "sunny Berlin". What should I do when it's The Hague?
6
votes
6answers
5k views

Definite article before schools, colleges, and universities

Is the always used before the name of a school, college, or university?
6
votes
1answer
6k views

Using the definite article with acronyms and initialisms

I'm wondering when to use or not to use the definite article, when using acronyms or initialisms in a sentence. Is there a rule for this, or does it depend on the context? For example, let's look at ...
6
votes
1answer
370 views

“This essay was translated from the Chinese” — what does this “the” do?

Chen Guangcheng is a special student at the U.S.-Asia Law Institute at the New York University School of Law. This essay was translated from the Chinese. Why don't they write: "This essay was ...
6
votes
4answers
9k views

Why there is “the” before some names but not others

Is there a rule beyond the common "no the with proper nouns and names" for the following problem? I saw the Empire State Building. We went to the White House. We saw the Golden Gate ...
6
votes
2answers
188 views

Which would be correct: “outputs” or “puts out”?

Which word should I use in the following context? Is the required before data? Any algorithm first reads data, processes (the) data and finally [outputs|puts out] the processed data.
6
votes
2answers
202 views

“the average person” vs “an average person”

There's a question in a forum I frequent, and I'm trying to decide whether "the average" or "an average" is appropriate in its title. Let's say the question is: "Why is the average Canadian ...
6
votes
2answers
9k views

“During summer” vs. “during the summer”

What is the difference between saying "during summer" and "during the summer"? As in: I work during the summer. I work during summer. Are both common? Is my feeling correct that the ...
6
votes
3answers
1k views

a cold vs flu / the flu

Have you got a cold? Have you got flu? Have you got the flu? Why can't we say a flu or the cold in the previous examples?
6
votes
2answers
294 views

Should there be an article before “mayor” in “the role of mayor”?

SimCity, for example, casts youth in the role of mayor. I'm not sure if I understand the usage of zero article correctly. There is no article before 'mayor' as this is the instance where we ...
6
votes
1answer
171 views

“An” average of vs. “The” average of

When nouns such as average, total, sum, etc., are modified by a prepositional phrase, how do you choose between the definite and indefinite articles? I cited sentences 1, 3, and 5 below from various ...
6
votes
1answer
978 views

“Time of (the) day”

I am confused about the article usage in the phrase "time of (the) day". From my research, I understand that "time of day" (day with the zero article) is more common and probably more idiomatic. It's ...
6
votes
8answers
933 views

Superlative and definite article “the”

I have seen similar questions like this here on ELU. However, I am still confused with my particular question. (a) She gets up latest in her family. (b) She gets up the latest in her family. ...
5
votes
5answers
1k views

Please use other door?

"Please use other door" signs are common. But would you ever say this? Or would you say "please use the other door"?
5
votes
1answer
286 views

Why do we use “the” in “the British” but not before “Canadians”? [closed]

Why do we use the definite article before most nationalities such as "the British" but we say "Canadians" without the? Specifically, why is it that, for example,... Canadians like maple syrup. ...
5
votes
1answer
232 views

Use of definite article in “the more” and “the less”

Why is the definite article used in expressions like the more and the less? For example, The more you study, the more you know. The less you study, the less you know.
5
votes
4answers
352 views

US Route 101 — “The 101”

In my part of the world, we refer to highways without any article. So we drive on "Highway 64", or "Interstate 64", or "I-64". But when I go to California, they say "The 101". Is there any explanation ...
5
votes
5answers
301 views

“The” for superlative referring to more than one object

Which one of these sentences is correct? The best countries to live in are ... Best countries to live in are ... EDIT: The reason this question is being asked is that this Wiktionary ...
5
votes
2answers
156 views

“Them” as a plural definite article

Hey, teachers, leave them kids alone! Intuitively "them" here sounds like it works like a plural "the". Which varieties of English is this usage found in? When it occurs, does it encode a ...
4
votes
5answers
227 views

Why “the Sun Tzu” instead of just “Sun Tzu”?

I am reading a military history text that repeatedly refers to "the Sun Tzu" but does not give similar treatment to other authors (an example is "Clausewitz and the Sun Tzu disagree on ..."). I have ...
4
votes
1answer
303 views

Use of definite article referring to figures and tables

There are tables and figures in a document, uniquely identifiable by their numbers. We want to refer to them in several places. Which one is preferable in academic English writing and why? In ...
4
votes
1answer
3k views

Do I need “the” before the name of my university? [duplicate]

Possible Duplicate: Definite article before proper nouns I was updating my LinkedIn tagline and thinking about whether I should put the article before the name of the university. ...
4
votes
3answers
1k views

'… the weather' vs. '… weather'

There are two correct (I hope so) sentences with weather taken from a book: Was the weather nice? Did you have nice weather? Can somebody explain why there's an article in the first ...
4
votes
5answers
798 views

Why do we use the definite article in the expression “quite the [noun]”?

Like: "quite the singer", "quite the writer", etc. while he/she is just a singer/writer and is not the only singer/writer, etc in that context.
4
votes
2answers
3k views

Is it proper to use “the” before the name of a government organization? [duplicate]

Possible Duplicate: Definite article with proper nouns, titles followed by a common noun Using the definite article with acronyms and initialisms When I listen to major news programs, ...
4
votes
3answers
2k views

Adjective with proper noun

Rephrasing the entire question: Do we use the article "the" when we use an adjective with a proper noun? Which of these is correct, and why? The terrible Mr. Brown set my boat on fire. ...
4
votes
4answers
192 views

“king of” or “the king of”

Which is correct? I am king of the world. I am the king of the world. Additionally, which would be the better choice, if I wanted to use the expression "king" to signify dominance in a ...
4
votes
4answers
577 views

Why “the” in “Three Men in a Boat (To Say Nothing of the Dog)”? [closed]

When reading the title of the book, we don't know what three men it is talking about so there is no/indefinite article (the same with "a boat"). But why is there "the Dog" instead of "a Dog"? We don't ...
4
votes
1answer
946 views

Use or omit “the” before profession?

This image-stabilising system for a hand-held camera, developed by cameraman Garrett Brown in 1973, offers (...) Wouldn't it be more correct to write "the cameraman Garrett Brown"? Is omitting ...