Could I use "the" after "there is/are"?

E.g.: There is the book on the table. There are the books on the table.

Or it must be: There is a book on the table. There are books on the table.

  • You can say "there are the books that you wanted", but it doesn't have quite the same meaning.
    – siride
    Sep 19 '13 at 2:53
  • 1
    I'd say the phrases including the article, the, taken in isolation, sound slightly stilted. Grammatically speaking they are both correct and their meaning is not really affected but you would need to have previously mentioned the noun to justify using "the". A: Where's my novel/manual/textbook? B: There's the book (you asked for) on the table. Whereas B: "There's a book on the table" means I saw a book lying on the table but I don't know if it's the one you are asking for.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Sep 19 '13 at 4:31

Yes, you can. You can use a definite article (the) before specified or particular nouns, whether they are countable or uncountable.

Specified or particular means, for example:

  • Definite, or previously mentioned ~ "I like the car you bought

  • Unique ~ "The Humber Estuary is not far away"

  • A natural phenomenon ~ "The rain is heavy"

  • A time period ~ "I lived there in the 1990s"

  • All the members of a society or a family ~ "The Smiths are coming for dinner"

So, if your books have been mentioned previously, you can say

"There are the books on the table".

If they haven't, maybe because you have just seen them, you would say

"Oh look! There are books on the table!"

  • You mentioned that "the" could be used with a time period. What is the difference between "I lived there in the 1990s" and "I lived there in 1990s". How could I use "the" with "1990s"? It is a unique time period, there is no such other period. Why would I use "the" before "1990s"? Thanks. Sep 19 '13 at 9:01
  • Could you tell me, why this similar question has been 'closed' and classified as 'off-topic' and 'more suited' to ELL? Could you clarify, please? english.stackexchange.com/questions/124278/… Sep 19 '13 at 9:33
  • @OlegKarnaukhov ~ we use 'the' with '1990s' because it is a unique time period, in the same way that we talk about the 20th century, or the sun and the moon. Sep 19 '13 at 15:43

You would not say "There is the book on the table".

You are using the definite article with the "There is/are" construction, and that is simply not done. You could, however, say "There is the book, on the table" or "There is the book - on the table", ie, adding additional, parenthetical information to the statement. And, of course, the indefinite article, among other things, is fine: "There is a book on the table", "There are some books on the table", etc.

Roaring Fish's sentences, while correct, are not examples of the "There is/are" construction.

See http://www.englisch-hilfen.de/en/grammar/there_is_there_are.htm

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