Is there a simple rule for "the" article?


Some people, whose background has little to do with "germanic" languages, are usually prone to "article mistakes".


Is there any simple rule for defining where "the" article should go?

asked Nov 05 '10 at 15:28 arsen.kostenko New member

7 answers


The definite article is used before singular and plural nouns when the noun is specific or particular. The signals that the noun is definite, that it refers to a particular member of a group. For example:

"The dog that bit me ran away." Here, we're talking about a specific dog, the dog that bit me.

link comment answered Nov 11 '10 at 14:51 Contributor

Valerie has given a good simple rule.


There are other details that can help you when that rule is unclear.



-/the - the zero article and the definite article

There are many rules for when to use the definite article, 'the'.  In the following, I have written only the most general and functional rules.  Specific rules for certain nouns are not included.


Use the definite article when:

1. a noun is defined by a phrase that follows it.

The car that we used last night. (Which car? The one we used last night.)

2. it is obvious from the context what is referred to. (Example needed.)

3. we mention the noun a second time or use a substitute noun.

There is a cat on the gate.  The feline jumped down after a mouse. (Which feline? The cat which was on the gate.)

4. we refer to something unique (including superlatives). 

This is the best coffee I've ever had! (Which coffee is it? The best.)

The President of the U.S.A. is Barack Obama. (a president is a unique person.)


Use the zero article/ don't use the definite article:

1. when we focus on the type of institution rather than a particular or specific building.

I went to university in Canada.

2. before plural nouns that are general, not specific.

I love cookies! BUT:  I love the cookies you gave me!

3. before abstract nouns.

We have hope and preserverance.

link comment answered Jan 20 '11 at 09:34 Kimberly Expert

I will give an example needed in the definite article number 2 of which Kimberly had explained : Open the door. Is it right?

link edited Feb 11 '11 at 17:14 Kiyong Kim kiyong New member

Exactly! Thanks. KimberlyFeb 20 '11 at 08:43

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"The" is a definite article, it is used as followings:

1. the+unique nouns

the earth

the stars

the sun

2. with nouns mentioned for the second time.

I have a car, the car is small but enough for me.

3. with modified nouns

the boy in black is my brother.

4. the+ a noun by the reason of locality can be represented a particular thing

the car in the garage.

5. the+ singular noun that represents the whole class of things

the lion is dangerouse.

6. the+adj.

the rich should help the poor.

7. with names of rivers, seas, groups od islands, chain of mountains, and plural names of counties

the dead sea

the hawaii

the united states

the united kingdom

8. with names of people which has a title

the simpsons

the adams


And zero article with proper nouns, abstract nouns, meals, names of games, parts of body or clothings, and locatives.

Kojin is a student.

Death is a real fact.

I have my breakfast at 8 am.

I like football.

Raise your hand.

I go home.

link edited Feb 18 '11 at 17:16 kojin Ismael New member

These rules are a great complement to the material already here. Thanks Kojin! KimberlyFeb 20 '11 at 08:44

the Hawaiian Islands, I am going home. Nancy SalamaJun 21 '11 at 21:14

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Why don't we say 'I am going to the school or ' I am going to the bed ' as there are lots of schools and beds but we are regarding just a specific school or bed ,then why not use "THE"

link comment edited Mar 19 '15 at 06:45 maham New member

the swidish is a German language 

link comment answered Oct 31 '16 at 05:20 israt New member

Can i say Are you a students ?

link comment answered Jan 19 at 03:46 Mgoode Alhaddad New member

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