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What Part of Speech Is the Word “The”?

Updated on January 12, 2024Students

The is the most commonly used word in the English language, according to the Oxford English Corpus, making it one of the most important words to learn. Part of learning it is understanding what part of speech is the.

The can be used as a definite article to refer to something specific or as an adverb when modifying another word.

We’ll dive further into what part of speech the is and how to use it as a definite article and an adverb, plus we’ll provide examples of the in a sentence.

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What part of speech is the?

The can be one of two parts of speech, depending on how it’s used. When it comes before a noun to refer to a specific something or to create a proper noun, it’s a definite article. The can also be used as an adverb to modify a verb, an adjective, or a group of words.

There are eight parts of speech in English: nouns, pronouns, verbs, adverbs, adjectives, prepositions, conjunctions, and articles.

The as a definite article

While the word the has multiple meanings as a definite article, the connection between them is that they refer to a specific person, place, or thing known or implied to be known by the reader or listener. For example:

“That’s the person I was telling you about.”

Articles are a part of speech used to identify nouns, and like nouns, there are two types of articles: definite articles and indefinite articles. The is a definite article, or a word that refers to a specific noun. An indefinite article refers to an unspecific noun.

Use the in a sentence when you’re referring to something that’s known to your audience. Here’s an example:

“My neighbor caught the dog in their yard this morning.”

The use of the as a definite article implies the dog has been previously discussed by the speaker and listener. Let’s see how the sentence sounds with an indefinite article.

“My neighbor found a dog in their yard this morning.”

In this sentence, it’s unclear what dog the speaker is referring to.

As a reminder, use definite articles with plural nouns; you can also omit the article with plural nouns.

Articles are also known as determiners, which are considered a type of adjective because they describe the nouns they’re placed in front of.

The as an adverb

As an adverb, the has three definitions: “than before” or “than otherwise”; “to what extent” or “to that extent”; and “beyond all others.” For example:

“Switch your seat—the teacher will be none the wiser.”

The sooner the better.”

“Rosa’s is the best pizza place in New York City.”

Adverbs are words that modify or describe a verb, an adjective, another adverb, or a group of words. Writers often use the as an adverb when comparing two or more things.

“We thought Michaelangelo had the best painting in the class.”

In this example, the is being used as an adverb modifying best to compare one painting to the others.

The can also be used to create an adverbial phrase or a group of words that acts as an adverb.

“It’s looking all the more likely we’ll be staying home for Christmas.”

The adverbial phrase “all the more likely” tells us the probability of the speaker being home for the holidays.

Examples of the in a sentence

Here are seven examples of the in a sentence. Notice how there are some sentences where the is used as a definite article and an adverb.

  • “That’s the king of England.”
  • “He’s the dog of my dreams.”
  • The hotter the better.”
  • The peregrine falcon is the fastest animal.”
  • “That’s the spirit!”
  • “Get to the hideout.”
  • “Where’s the car?”

Parts of speech: the FAQs

What is the meaning of the word the?

The is a definite article, or a word that refers to a specific person, place, or thing known to the reader or listener.

What part of speech is the word the?

The can be a definite article or adverb, depending on its use. It’s a definite article if used before a noun, and it’s an adverb if used before a verb, other adverbs, or adjectives.

How is the used in a sentence?

The is most commonly used as a definite article to refer to a specific person, place, or thing known to a listener or reader. It’s also used as a comparative adverb to compare one thing to one or more things, as in: “It was the best restaurant we ever ate at.”

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