Should i put definite article before "Houses" in "[The] houses on this street are very old"?

UPD: I know this rule:

The definite article can be used with both singular and plural nouns, but it must only be used when you are describing a specific noun, or group of nouns.

Do "on this street" part specify "houses" enough to use definite article in this case?

  • Depends on the context.
    – Hot Licks
    Commented Nov 17, 2019 at 16:04
  • @HotLicks if i mean specific houses on the street, then i must use definite article. If i mean all houses on the street, then i must use zero article. Is it correct?
    – Daniil
    Commented Nov 17, 2019 at 16:10
  • 2
    No. The houses on this street implies all of them (to me, at least). Commented Nov 17, 2019 at 16:21
  • no, Danill, that's not correct. in the first place, the definite article (actually, the definite noun phrase) does not talk about specific things, but about definite things, which is why it's called definite NP, not specific NP. in other words, indefinite noun phrases can also talk about specific things. second, using 'the houses' does not mean 'all the houses'... only 'all the houses' means 'all the houses', or Every house on this street, or each and every house on this street, or every house on this street with no exception....otherwise, neither 'houses' nor 'the houses' means all the houses Commented Nov 17, 2019 at 16:25
  • 1
    PhD dissertations and scholarly articles have been written trying to explain or demonstrate what bare plural noun phrases (houses on this street) and plural definite noun phrases (the houses on this street) mean; but neither of them mean, as demonstrated by actual language use, 'each and every single house on this street with no exception' Commented Nov 17, 2019 at 16:33

3 Answers 3


English gives you options.

I can be walking down a street and suddenly realize that (the) houses on this street are old, and I can state my realization using either NP, that is with either

houses on this street are old


the houses on this street are old

neither is more correct than the other. the first utterance uses a bare plural noun phrase (houses on this street). this does not mean 'all houses on this street'. it expresses a generalization based on several instances: I have noticed that there are instances of houses on this street being old, and I state a generalization to that effect. (again, I am not claiming that all houses on the street are old.)

the second utterance uses a plural definite noun phrase (the houses on this street). it refers to some undifferentiated set of houses on this street.

it does not have to mean 'all the houses' on the street, any more than does the mountains in I went to Austria. here's a picture of the mountains in Austria. it is highly unlikely that my one photo shows 'all the mountains' of Austria, nor that that was the meaning of my utterance.


by the way, the resource you cite in your question is full of errors, but second language teachers have to start somewhere.

  • Your answer would be good if it conformed to the capitalisation protocols expected on ELU. And explained that to a logician and a hyperprescriptivist, 'the houses on this street' actually does mean 'all the houses on this street'. Commented Nov 17, 2019 at 17:04

Yes, you can use the definite article if you are being specific. There might be 10 houses on the street which are old. In your example this is how it should be: The houses on this street are very old. But if you don't want to be specific about the houses then: Houses on this street are very old.


I could not resist, providing examples from which other utterances can be generated.

  • Houses for people are wonderful things. [a generality]
  • A house is a wonderful thing. [another generality, in the singular]
  • The house on the corner is not so pretty. [in relation to the previous sentence!]
  • The house on Addams Street has burned down. [specific house, unrelated to previous sentence]
  • The houses on this street are beautiful. [Not the houses on that street, for example.]

Sentences can be generated for practice. A sentence can be simple, complex, compound or something else. The sentences I have just written are straightforward. But the sentence you are trying to understand is not. However, the sentences in your grammar book are rather confusing.

I may have overlooked some other pertinent example(s) but I can guarantee you will produce good sentences if you follow the pattern.

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