For many English learners, articles are one of the most difficult things to remember! Articles are confusing because it’s not always necessary to use an article in English.
This lesson is about when NOT to use the definite article the. Sometimes it’s easier to remember when NOT to use something instead of trying to memorize when to use something!
Here are some situations in which you don’t need to use the.
1. Things in general
You don’t need an article when you talk about things in general.
The does NOT = all.
Use plural count nouns:
Cats are great pets!
You’re not talking about one specific cat or one specific pet. You’re talking about all cats and all pets in general.
I love reading books.
Women love it when men send them flowers!
Houses are expensive in that neighbourhood.
Americans drive big cars.
Use non-count nouns:
I love listening to music.
You enjoy music in general, not any specific song or kind of music.
She’s afraid of heights, so we couldn’t go to the top of the Eiffel Tower.
I love chocolate!
Have you eaten lunch yet?
She’s a vegetarian. She doesn’t eat meat.
NOTE: Count nouns (or countable nouns) are nouns that have a singular and plural form because you can count them, for example one cat, two cats, three cats. Non-count (or uncountable nouns) are nouns that do not have a plural form. You cannot count non-count nouns. For example, you can’t say
one music, two musics, three musics.
LEARN MORE: When to use “a” and “the” to talk about one of something
Names of holidays, countries, companies, languages, etc. are all proper nouns. You don’t need to use an article with a proper noun.
I got a beautiful new dress for Christmas.
I got my mom a necklace for Mother’s Day.
Everybody wears green on St. Patrick’s Day.
What are you doing on Valentine’s Day?
Articles are not used before countries, states, cities, towns, continents, single lakes, or single mountains.
I live in Canada.
Mt. Rosa is part of the Alps mountain range.
Mt. Rosa is one mountain. The Alps describe a group of mountains.
I’m going to Europe next month on vacation.
Lake Ontario and Lake Huron are 2 of the Great Lakes.
The Great Lakes are a group of lakes on the border between Canada and the US.
Mt. Fuji is the highest mountain in Japan.
NOTE: There is an exception to every rule in English. The is part of the names of these countries:
the United States
the Czech Republic
I use Twitter and Facebook every day.
Bill Gates founded Microsoft.
Wal-Mart is the largest employer in the U.S.
McDonald’s has restaurants in 119 countries.
Her son graduated from Harvard.
She goes to Oxford.
He applied to Cambridge, Yale, and Stanford.
However, if the name of the university begins with University, then you must use the:
He has a master’s degree from the University of Toronto.
I am studying Russian.
I speak French.
In Brazil people speak Portuguese.
I teach people how to speak English.
3. Places, locations, streets
Streets, some locations, and some places do not need an article:
I left my book at home.
I have to go to work early tomorrow.
He was found guilty of murder and sent to jail for life.
My office is located on Main Street.
I usually go to church on Sundays.
Good night everyone! I’m going to bed.
Did you go to school today?
When I was in high school, everyone had to study French.
She’s studying business at university.
NOTE: You don’t need an article for subjects you study at school: math, geography, business, history, science.
Places where you DO need to use an article:
I need to go to the bank.
Let’s go to the movies.
My dad is in the hospital.
She works at the post office.
What time do you have to be at the airport?
Please drop me off at the bus stop.
She doesn’t like to go to the doctor or the dentist.
Sports and other physical activities do not need an article:
I love to go skiing in the winter.
I play football every day after school.
He loves watching hockey on TV.
She does yoga 3 times a week.
My daughter really enjoys dancing.
Play, do, or go? Verbs used to talk about sports
Gerunds used for sports
5. Noun + number
He’s staying at the Hilton hotel in room 221.
The train to Paris leaves from platform 2.
My English class is in room 6 on the first floor.
First is an adjective in this sentence. It describes the floor.
An acronym is an abbreviation (a short form) of a name. It uses the first letter of each word to form a new word.
a. If the acronym is pronounced as a word, don’t use the.
NATO ambassadors met to discuss the situation.
NATO is the acronym used for the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. NATO is pronounced as one word, /’neɪtoʊ/.
UNESCO was formed in 1946.
UNESCO is the acronym used for the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization. UNESCO is pronounced as one word, /ju’nɛskoʊ/.
You need to use the before acronyms when the letters are pronounced individually, not as a word.
The UN was created after the Second World War.
UN is used to represent the United Nations. UN is pronounced you-N /ju’ɛn/. It is not pronounced un /ʌn/, like in the word under.
Other acronyms that need the:
b. The is not used before university acronyms:
John Smith got his MBA at UCLA.
She has a Ph.D. from MIT.
Code Switcher says
Thank you very much for having posted an article about the uses of the article 'the'since it can be 'tricky' sometimes.
I think is it very useful and I really appreciate the examples you provide with the grammar explanation since they are really important for us, the foreign students who are learning the language ;)
Thanks a lot once again and I hope you keep on contributing to the teaching of the English language
Really, all these examples given here are very important to me! We often face difficulties in “article usage”, as non-native speakers.
English seems so difficult for me. There’re too many things to learn everyday. I just have found this web and I realize that it’s very helpful for me to improve my E. Thank teacher Malanie very much!
( If I have any mistakes, please show me it, my writing’s very bad)
Don’t get discouraged, Trang! You don’t have to learn everything about English in one day! How long did it take you to learn your language? Make sure you do something in English every day, and you will be fine.
please tell me, can i use ‘the’ article with a name like “the michael jackson” ?????
”the obama” ?????
is it correct way or not.,,to specify one’s uniqueness…????
The is not used with someone’s name.
Barack Obama is the president of the United States.
Michael Jackson died in 2009.
There are some situations in which you use the before a name, but these are very rare situations.
1. If two people have the same name, the can be used:
“I am looking for the John Smith who lives in Canada.”
(There are many John Smiths. You want the one who lives in Canada.)
2. The can also be used if someone has changed:
“The Michael Jackson I knew was kind and loving.”
(This means that Michael Jackson has changed or someone has said that Michael Jackson was not kind and loving.)
3. The can also be used if someone is famous:
“Are you Barack Obama? THE Barack Obama?”
(If more than one person has the name Barack Obama, you want to make sure you are talking to the Barack Obama who is president/famous.)
However, 99% of the time, the is not used in front of a name.
Can we use the in not specific things.like I have the headache
No, use “a” instead.
“I have a headache.”
Hey! Thank you for the enlightening explanations!
If have but one question. What about the sentence: “He lives on the street.”
Since this doesn’t really describe any specific street I came to wonder whether it is a collocation?
An explanation would be very much appreciated! :)
You are correct! The phrase “live on/in the street” means “be homeless.” He doesn’t live on a specific street, he lives wherever he can find a place to sleep.
sharon hutchinson says
I happened upon your site while trying to find a rule that pertains to a usage of ‘the’ which has been bothering me. Is it correct to say ‘he died in the Johnson Hospital’, when the hospital’s name is Johnson Hospital? To my ear, using ‘the’ in that sentence turns part of the proper name – Johnson – into an adjective. A dear friend is a Funeral Director and Ive noticed that he has picked this usage up from one of his new employees; I wanted to check before I point it out to him.
Thank you for taking the time to, not just respond, but to construct a page for such a specific grammar issue.
Is the part of the name of the hospital? For example, is the hospital called The Johnson Hospital, or is it just Johnson Hospital? If the is part of the actual name, then it’s OK to say “He died in The Johnson Hospital.”
If the is not part of the name of the hospital, then it shouldn’t be used. Say “He died in Johnson Hospital.”
I hope that helps!
Thanks a lot really learned a lot with single visit this page by chance.
GOD bless you
Hi… I would like to know why there is THE in the song All the single ladies… I mean, isnt it general? what single ladies in particular is the song reffering to?
When Beyonce sings “All the Single Ladies,” she is talking to a specific group of ladies: single ladies. It’s like she’s looking at a group of women, but she only wants to talk to the ladies who are single (not married, without a boyfriend), and she’s asking, “Where are all the single ladies?” The next line is “Now put your hands up.” She is saying “Put your hand up if you are a single lady” so she can see where all the single ladies are.
Its my immense pleasure to come across this website unfortunately and going through the article. I do have some doubts which I want you to clear.
1.Let’s go to beach or it should be Let’s go to the beach which is correct and why?
2.What would you like for the breakfast or it should be What would you like for breakfast?which is correct and why?
3.Nile is the longest river in the world or it should be The Nile is the longest river in the world?which is correct and why?
4.Sahara is the world’s biggest desert or it should be The Sahara is the world’s biggest desert?which is correct and why?
Please answer them with reasoning Thank you.
1. “Let’s go to the beach!” = a fixed expression
2. “What would you like for breakfast?” – The is not used for meals (breakfast/lunch/dinner)
3. “The Nile is the longest river in the world.” – The is used with the names of oceans, seas, rivers, gulfs, & canals (bodies of water)
4. “The Sahara is the world’s biggest desert.” – The is used with the names of deserts.
Thank you very much for helping people in clearing there doubts patiently and most important clearly.Thank u Thank u very much..
Monique Buckner says
A student of mine said, ‘When my boyfriend and I were the students, we went camping often.’.
Your student should have said, “When my boyfriend and I were students, we often went camping.”
Dear Ma’am Melanie,
I have come across in some book written that ‘The’ cannot be used before non-countable noun (mass noun) but how come the following sentence is written.
They decided to sell the furniture.
Here in this sentence furniture is uncountable. Ma’am could you please explain and clarify my doubt…
I’m looking forward for your reply….Thanks in anticipation.
You don’t need to use ‘Ma’am’ in your greeting. You can just say, “Dear Melanie”.
There’s no rule that the cannot be used before non-countable nouns. You can’t use a or an before non-countable nouns, but the is fine.
The is used when you want to talk about something specific. If you are talking about something in general, don’t use the.
“They decided to sell the furniture.” – specific, you are talking about the furniture in their house
“We need furniture.” – general, they need furniture because they have no furniture
Thank you very much for your clarification. I have learnt many things from you. And I hope you’ll always be the same kind teacher and help us out in our grammatical problem……and I’ll ask the same type of question after a short time. May God bless you.
Thank you very much
I often get confused whether or not it’s necessary in using or not using article. Earlier I read in a website that there’s no need to put article after preposition. (I find it hard to get out of bed when it’s time to go to school). But what about “Last Sunday i went to the Zoo and saw the Kangaroos there.” Why use article on that sentence? Is it because in the first sentence I don’t talk about a specific bed, it’s difficult to wake up to start your day no matter which bed you’re sleeping on? And the second sentence we use article even after preposition because here we’re talking about a particular zoo and a group of kangaroos, not any kangaroos?
What about this, which is the best sentence: The meeting was cancelled due to bad weather or the meeting was cancelled due to the bad weather ??
Thanks in advance. All the best!
I’ve never heard or read that “there’s no need to put article after preposition.” Did the website specify if it meant an indefinite or definite article?
“I find it hard to get out of bed when it’s time to go to school.”
In this case, get out of bed and go to school are verb phrases. They are collocations. We always say those words together without an article.
“Where did you go to school?”
“I can’t get out of bed in the mornings.”
“Last Sunday I went to the zoo and saw the kangaroos there.”
Here are you are talking about something specific. Which zoo? The zoo in your town or city. There is only one zoo in your town or city. We saw some/lots of/the kangaroos (the kangaroos at the zoo).
“The meeting was cancelled due to bad weather.”
“The meeting was cancelled due to the bad weather.”
Both are correct. Often when we are reporting news, especially in a newspaper headline, the small words are left out, so you will see ‘bad weather’ without an article.
When would you put “the” in front of a family name? I’m sending X’mas cards and I was wondering if it is appropriate to add the definite article in front of a family name. I’ve seen both cases on the cards I received in the past.
Thank you in advance,
This is a great question, Bollazo! I’m sorry that I did not reply to your question earlier.
If you’re sending a Christmas card, on the envelope you can write:
100 Main St.
However, you should write all their names inside the card:
Dear Mr. & Mrs Smith,
Dear Alison, John, David, & Kyle (if there are parents & children)
Sometimes people will sign their cards:
Love the Smiths
… but I think this is very impersonal! I would rather see:
Love Alison & John Smith
Robert Keroack says
Hi, thanks for your web site. I’m compiling info about definite article usage for some of my more advanced Mongolian learners and I have now succeeded in confusing myself to the point that I can’t remember (I’ve been here too long!) if we use ‘the’ before the name of a waterfall. Can you give me a bit of help on this particular item??
This is a great question, Bob!
I can’t find any “rule” about this, but I also can’t find any waterfalls with ‘the’ in the name, so I don’t think ‘the’ is used before the name of a waterfall (here’s a list: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Waterfall#Examples_of_famous_waterfalls)
I live about 1 1/2 hours away from Niagara Falls, and I’ve never heard anyone say “The Niagara Falls.” That sounds really odd!
first of all ur blog is just awesome :) Second of all I might have a question…what about organizations such as UN, FED, WTO, ECB and so on?
(The) FED hast introduced its new CEO.
Egypt became a member of (the) UN.
Is there any rule concerning this matter?
Thank u very much in advance and keep up the good work ;)
What is FED? UN, WTO, ECB are all acronyms, meaning that they are the shortened names of an organization, (the United Nations, the World Trade Organization, the European Central Bank), using the first letter of each word in the name of the organization.
When I see ‘FED,’ I immediately think of the Federal Reserve Bank in the US, which is not an acronym, and so it’s different from the others. Please let me know if you ‘FED’ means something else.
As for the others, use ‘the’ when each letter in the acronym is pronounced.
For example, U.N. is ‘the you-N.’ So, you need to use ‘the’ in front of each acronym.
If the acronym is said as a word, like NATO, don’t use ‘the’ in front of it.
Thank u very much for ur answer.
By FED I meant the Federal Reserve Bank. Shame on me, that I thought it was an acronym as well ;) So in this case I guess you write FED with an article as well !?
All the best,
Yes! You’re correct. You need to use ‘the’ with FED.
“5 ways the Fed can get the economy back to normal.” (a recent headline)
Also, FED isn’t written in capital letters. Just write ‘Fed.’
Hi Melanie!! I have a doubt, when I translate this sentence: Mona Lisa was stolen in…. (from Italian to English) do I need to put the article ” The ” before Mona Lisa or not??
Yes, you need to say ‘the Mona Lisa.’ I can’t find a specific rule about names of paintings. Usually ‘the’ is included in the title only if the artist wants it to be part of the title. However, because it’s so famous (possibly the most famous painting in the world!), we always use ‘the’ before it.
Also, “I have a doubt” is a Spanish/Portuguese expression that isn’t translated into English. Instead, say “I have a question.”
Keara Mulhern says
Thank you for this article. It was very helpful! Could you clarify how I can explain to my students why you say ‘the Eiffel Tower’ but not ‘the Big Ben’?
Hmmm, interesting question, Keara!
The Eiffel Tower includes the noun tower, so it needs the just like the CN Tower or the Leaning Tower of Pisa.
Big Ben is the name of the bell inside the tower. The actual name of the tower is the Big Ben Clock Tower.
thanx you my dear teacher. :)
Is it correct to ask “is there any important class on ‘the’ 10th” without mentioning the name of month
“Is there an important class on the 10th?”
Yes, in this case ‘the 10th’ is fine!
If you said the name of the month, then don’t use ‘the’:
“Is there an important class on March 10th?”
How would you explain university acronyms? I feel like they should go against rule #6.
My grad school advisor is a non-native speaker, and he always introduces seminar guests like: “Dr. X got her MS at the UCLA in 2001 and her PhD at the MIT in 2005.” It always sound extremely unnatural to me, but I can’t come up with a concrete reason.
Your grad school advisor is incorrect. He should say,
“Dr. X got her MS at UCLA in 2001 and her PhD at MIT in 2005.”
You are also correct that this goes against category #6! I know, it’s confusing. ‘The’ isn’t used with university acronyms. I’ll add a note to category #6. It’s strange because UCLA’s full name is “the University of California, Los Angeles.”
‘The’ is used before university names that start with ‘University,’ but not university acronyms:
the University of Toronto (U of T)
the University of Southern California (USC)
There’s no specific rule why.
Thanks for your question!
Thank you for your answer which I found were helpful. ;-) I think that I have finally figured out when to use “THE” and when not. As for my new e-mail, I think I’ll go for “thesunlightchaser”, because I like this “the only one” attitude.
So, thank you once again and if I will ever again need help with English language, I know where should I come. :-)
hi dear teacher
i would be grateful to know about article rules in general statements. could be a singular countable noun used without any article in general statement ?
for example, which of these sentences are true?
banana is yellow? or a banana is yellow ? or bananas are yellow ?
is it true to say ” book is my best friend.” ?
Say “Is it correct?” instead of “Is it true?” A singular countable noun needs an article. If you are making a general statement, use the plural form.
1. The banana is yellow.
2. A banana is yellow.
*Banana is a countable noun, so when it is singular, it needs an article.
3. Bananas are yellow. – a general statement
thanks a bunch for aforementioned examples.
I am weak in English but since I started following you articles, I can realize that my English has been improved.
Thanks & Regards:
Alaukik Singh Reyansh
“management” vs “the management”
I grew up using “management” without the article but have seen it used in situations where management is referring to itself, e.g. Smoking prohibited – The Management. Could you please give me more example of when the article may / should be used with this word?
This is an interesting question.
The example you provided is really the only time ‘the’ should be used. I think ‘the management’ in this case means ‘the management of this company’ or ‘the management of this building.’ [Sentence structure: the ________ of.]
In all other situations, ‘management’ is used without ‘the.’
I’ve read three dictionaries and I can’t find a single other situation in which ‘the management’ is used. other than in the structure ‘the management of.’
Prateek Bansal says
Hey thanks a lot for explaining in details about where to use and where not to use the. I used to be always confused but I think using the is clear to me.
i am very bad in english but after your lesson i think i am improving it day by day . will you please help me for which article do i have to use for statement ” Did you see the film on “..?..” TV last night?” and “I always listen to “..?..” radio on my way into work”… can i use “the” at both??
1. “Did you see the film on TV last night?”
– You don’t need to use the here because you are not talking about a specific TV, like the TV in the bedroom. You are talking about TV in general.
2. “I always listen to the radio on my way to work.”
– In this case you’re talking about the radio in your car, which is a specific radio.
Could you mind explaining why we do not need to add ‘the’ before Disneyland (e.g. Hong Kong Disneyland), and Hong Kong Wetland Park, but necessary when talking about museum names and some names of square? Also, how about ‘the’ Avenue of Stars? Are there any underlying rules?
Good questions, Jamilla!
1. Hong Kong Disneyland, Walt Disney World (in Florida) and Disneyland Paris are all specific names of theme parks. They are similar to company names like Apple or Microsoft. You don’t need to use the before names.
There are 5 Disneylands now: Hong Kong, Tokyo, Paris, Shanghai, & California. Use the if you are having a conversation with someone and she wasn’t specific about which Disneyland she is visiting:
“I’m going to Disneyland!!!”
~ “Which one? There are 5!”
“The one in California!”
However, if you are using the specific name Hong Kong Disneyland, don’t use the.
2. The Avenue of Stars
I had never heard of this so I had to google it. I noticed that both Avenue of Stars and the Avenue of Stars are used. I don’t like to use the word “rules,” because, as you know, English doesn’t always follow “rules,” and you don’t learn to speak English by learning “rules.”
Generally speaking, the is usually used in the structure the _____ of _____ when you are talking about something specific. In this case I would use “the Avenue of Stars.”
I would ask you for the usage of article THE. I use grammar checker and it didn’t correct THE in the following sentence: THE LIFE IS AN A PRIORI LOST WORLD WAR. but my teacher said it’s not correct like this because before word life we don’t use the article THE. Okay, when we speak about as a general thing we don’t use the. However, can we use in this case (sentence) the ‘THE’ before life? Do you think of this phrase is a general meaning? Or in which other occasion do we use the before life (except the specification of somebody or something, as I’ve just mentioned)?
Thank you for your help in advance
Which grammar checker did you use? I wouldn’t rely on a grammar checker to correct all your errors.
Your teacher is correct. In your sentence “Life is an a priori lost world war,” you are talking about life in general, not one specific life. The only time you use the before life is when you are talking about a specific life:
the life of a dog
the life I used to have
Otherwise, use life without the.
how do you explain not using an article in the case of ” i wish you a merry christmas”
no article before holiday doesn’t apply here.
You would not use the before Christmas and say “
I wish you the Merry Christmas.”
You can use “a Merry Christmas” because Christmas is both a non-count and count noun.
However, you can’t say “
I got a beautiful new dress for a Christmas” so it is best to remember that you can’t use an article with holidays.
David Leung says
Thank you for this web site, it is very helpful to me.
My supervisor always write “See the figures 1 and 2 on the pages 2 and 4 for details”. Can you clarify for me if he is correct to use “the” in both places.
Here’s the correct sentence: “See figures 1 and 2 on pages 2 and 4 for details.”
Regarding this exercise:
“I heard on __the__ radio that there had been __a__ terrible earthquake in __ -__ California __-__ last night.
Can you please explain why there’s no need for an article with “last night”
This is a very good question, Myk!
“I heard on the radio that there had been a terrible earthquake in California last night.”
There is no article before last night because English is a ridiculous language that doesn’t always follow “rules”!
Last night looks like it’s an adjective + noun, but it’s a noun phrase that is actually an adverb of time, and articles aren’t used with adverbs.
Other adverbs of time: yesterday, today, tomorrow, in June, last year
Hi dear teacher
The rule says we do not use the in front of parks. Then why do we say The National park was opened last week by the mayor.
But we don’t use the for
They went for a stroll around James park
Hi, Rosh! Great questions!
“The” is not used in front of the actual names of parks. You can still use “the” in front of the work park by itself.
“The National Park was opened last week by the mayor.”
“National Park” is not the name of the park. “National Park” is a category of parks owned by the government. In this sentence the actual name of the park is not mentioned. The speaker is talking about a specific, unnamed National Park, so “the” is used.
If the name of the park was used in the sentence, you don’t need to use “the”:
“James Park was opened last week by the mayor.”
“They went for a stroll around James Park.”
“James Park” is the actual name of the park, so don’t use “the.”
You could use “the” if the name of the park wasn’t mentioned:
“They went for a stroll around the local park.”
Thank you so much for your help … may god bless you with more .. :)
Thank you for your article I have two questions.
(1) In a sentence where you refer to “[the] existing infrastructure]”, do you need to use the definite article or not? Because it might be specific, even though it is not countable.
(2) The other question is about “[the] public space”. Do you need to use the definite article here or does it depend on the context?
1. “the existing infrastructure”
This is fine even though infrastructure is a non-count noun. It doesn’t matter that it’s a non-count noun.
You don’t need to use “the” if you are talking about infrastructure in general:
“We need to invest more in infrastructure.”
In your sentence, however, you are talking about infrastructure in a specific location that already exists, so it’s OK to use “the”.
2. “the public space”
For this I need more information! What is the complete sentence?
Again, if you were talking about public space in general, you would use “the”:
“We need more public space in the city.”
If you were talking about a specific location, like “the public space in front of City Hall,” then you need to use “the.”
According to English Grammar book of WREN & MARTIN
1) “When a singular noun is meant to represent a whole class; as
The cow is a useful animal.
2) In the sense of any, to single out an individual as the representative of a class; as
A cow is a useful animal.
What is the difference between 1 and 2, Iam confused. Please clarify clearly-Thank you.
I had never heard of this grammar book or the authors, so I googled the authors.
It turns out Wren & Martin wrote grammar books in 1935 for the children of British officers in India. Later these books were widely used in India & Pakistan. (You can read the Wikipedia article here.)
Are you using the Wren & Martin book in school? If not, I don’t recommend using this grammar book.
Ok thank you. But in those sentences, which one is correct?
It depends on what you want to say! Are you talking about one specific cow or cows in general?
In American English: “Cows are useful animals.”
In formal British English: “The cow is a useful animal.”
Hi Melanie, and thank you for this list.
I am ordering a book embosser and I was thinking if ‘the’ is appropriate in my example. The example is below: Is it with or without ‘the’?
Ex. 1: Library of (my name)
Ex. 2: The Library of (my name)
For me it sounds that the ex. 2 is correct with ‘the’, but I am not sure. Thanks for your help.
Actually, “From the Library of Mikko” is better! This is the more common way of saying it. It’s a shortened version of the sentence “This book is from the library of …”
(You can see examples of this on Etsy or in a Google image search)
The collocation is the _(noun)_ of. I can’t think of a situation where you would use noun + of by itself without out the before it.
Thanks Melanie. I personally don’t like the form ‘from the Library of Mikko’. I just leave it as I said earlier: “The Library of Mikko”. English is my second language and that’s why I wanted to make sure I order the book embosser in the grammatically correct form.
Thanks for your help again!
You write in English very well, Mikko! All the best & enjoy your embosser! :)
Can you please help me with this case? In the situation that I have a list of questions and I want users to answer all the questions before clicking SAVE. If they don’t do so, a disclaimer will appear. As I think “questions” here are definite, so the disclaimer should be “Please complete all THE questions”. Then, I googled and the results (hey, is it OK if I write “results – no the”?) showed that people used “Please complete all questions” (no THE). Please help me explain? Is there anything right or wrong with the 2 sentences or just a common phrase? And which one should I use here?
Thank you so much!
P.s: That is the reason why I found your helpful article. :)
Hi, Pink! This is a good question!
Both sentences are fine and grammatically correct. Use “Please complete all questions” because it’s shorter & more common.
Your reasoning is correct that it should be the questions because you are talking about specific questions.
However, “Please complete all questions” is also correct, and it’s because of the word all.
All and the are both determiners. (A determiner is a small word used before a noun that shows which thing you are referring to or talking about. You don’t have to memorize this, but it’s useful for understanding why the sentence is correct. All is also a quantifier. It describes how many of the noun you are talking about.)
You are talking about a specific set of questions, but you are also taking about a group of questions. Specific and general. You can drop the because, in this context, all and the are referring to the same set of questions.
“I googled and the results (hey, is it OK if I write “results – no the”?)”
Here, you need to use the because you are talking about the specific results of a google search!
We are celebrating a fifth day festival or We are celebrating the fifth day festival
What is a/the “fifth day festival”? Can you tell me more about this festival? Does it have another name? When does it happen. I need to know more about this festival before I can say you should use a or the.
I mean, which article can we use before ordinal numbers. Thank you
In your phrase “fifth-day festival,” the ordinal number is part of the adjective fifth-day describing the festival, so it has no article. In your phrase, it is “festival” that determines which article to use.
Is “fifth-day festival” the name of the festival? Is it a festival that is on the fifth day of the month?
Thank you for the posted grammar. I have a question. There are some expressions like “Jack the ripper” and “Bob the builder.” What is the underlying grammar of these expressions? Could we change them into “the ripper Jack,” “Jack, the ripper,” or ” Ripper Jack”? Or “the builder Bob”? What are the differences?
Hi, Ada! This is an interesting question.
You can’t change the structure. It’s always
+ the + profession. This structure is quite common in English:
Jack the Plumber
Bob the Builder
Joe the Plumber
John the Baptist
Winnie the Pooh
Dora the Explorer
Alexander the Great
You cannot use the other structures you suggested. Many of the above are people from history or TV characters, and that is how they are known. You can’t change their name!
I cannot find any grammatical explanation for this sentence structure. I will keep looking! Unfortunately the best answer I can give you is “because that’s the way it is!”
Alex Adams says
Thanks for your kind post Ms Melanie. The material about article use is very useful for me. I think we can become good friends in future.
Ritesh kudape says
I am going to the shiva ji temple to meet my friend is this sentence right or not ….please tell.
I have rewritten your message to make it easier to understand. Please study the sentence structure, capitalization, & punctuation.
Can you please tell me if this sentence is correct?
“I am going to the Shiva Ji Temple to meet my friend.”
Yes, your sentence is correct!
Hi can you tell me please is the definite article used in front of the word television
I need an example sentence before I can tell you if the is used in front of television.
Television could have no article:
“What’s on TV tonight?”
It could have a:
“Do you have a television?”
It could have the:
“Turn on the television.“
I am fond of reading science fiction. Do we use any article before science fiction?
“I am fond of reading science fiction.”
Your sentence is correct, Teena! No article is needed before science fiction. It’s an noncount noun, and you don’t need the because you are talking about the genre in general not a specific science fiction book.
How are articles used with a name preceded by an adjective? Sometimes it is “a” like in “an unsuspecting Mario”. Sometimes it is “the” like in “the watchful Pierre”.
I am writing a news article and want to write somethining like this, in the first sentence: “(?) international artist N. has left Europe for the South”. Will it be “the” or “an”?
Also, could you please refer me to the relevant grammar rule?
My full sentence is “Like the French post-impressionist Paul Gauguin, the international artist R. K. has left Europe for the South”. I thought there were too many “thes”… no?
Thank you for helping me
Your sentence is beautifully written and fine just the way it is:
“Like the French post-impressionist Paul Gauguin, the international artist R.K. has left Europe for the South.”
My only concern is with your use of “the South.” This usually refers to the southern states in the US, but I am reading this from a North American perspective. Do you mean “the South Pacific”? That came to mind because I know Gauguin spent a lot of time in Tahiti.
When a get a question like yours, I always check the book Practical English Usage by Michael Swan. It contains over 600 pages of English style and grammar! I recommend this book if you do a lot of writing in English. No one person could ever know every rule! (My tip: use the Index at the back of the book to find what you’re looking for.)
I couldn’t find any rule or example in the book about when to use the indefinite article as in “an unsuspecting Mario.” This leads me to believe that this is a primarily literary form and falls under “artistic license” (or “poetic license,” or “creative license.”)
It’s the noun that determines which article to use. Using an adjective before the noun shouldn’t affect the article.
Lester E Flax says
How about the word hospital? Why doesn’t that word need an article? How about mayhem? I’ve never seen that word used with an article until I saw that in a newspaper story.
Hospital needs an article.
“My uncle is in the hospital.”
With non-count nouns like mayhem, it gets a bit confusing. If you are just talking about mayhem in the general sense, then don’t use the:
“Did you go to the soccer game? It was mayhem!”
However, if you are talking about a specific situation, then use the:
“I don’t want to go to the soccer game after the mayhem at the last game.“
Oscar Diaz says
It’s been a while since I last found a website where the owner so actively answers questions just to help out people, so before anything else, thank you for the great work your are doing and your patience.
Today I saw this on an email I was cc’d on: “Attached the documentation sent it the last week”.
I think it should say: “Attached the documentation sent last week” because it sounds better to me, but also “last week” sounds specific to me. So, how can I explain that “the” should be removed?
“Attached the documentation sent it the last week”.
Was this sentence written by a native speaker? It makes no sense to me. I don’t understand it.
I think sentence should be:
“Please find attached the document (that) I sent last week.”
… but I don’t know the situation or why the person is sending a document he or she already sent last week.
In this sentence “last week” is an adverb so it doesn’t need an article.
Which is the correct sentence?
“The animals are so placid and self contained.”
“The animal is so placid and self contained.”
Why is “the” used here?
“The television gives us recreation.”
Why isn’t “the” used here?
Do you watch television?
Is “the” used here?
Do you like the television?
Can you please tell me when “the” is used in front of the word “television”?
Hello again Proshtuti!
I rewrote your comment to make it easier to read.
1. Which is the correct sentence?
“The animals are so placid and self contained.”
“The animal is so placid and self contained.”
I have no idea what the correct sentence is. Are you talking about one animal or many animals?
2. Why is “the” used here?
“The television gives us recreation.”
“The” should be used here. This sentence is incorrect. Nothing can “give” someone recreation.
3. Why isn’t “the” used here?
“Do you watch television?
There is no “the” here because you are not talking about a specific television, like the one in your house. You are talking about TV in the general sense, meaning the idea of television.
4. Is “the” used here?
Do you like the television?
It depends. Are you talking about a specific television? For example, “Do you like the new television I bought today?” Or the idea of television?
5. Can you please tell me when “the” is used in front of the word “television”?
“The” is used in front of “television” if you are talking about a specific television, like the one in your house or the one you recently bought.
Hello ma’am , I talk about many animals. Thank you for your help.
In that case you need to use the plural noun:
“The animals are so placid and self contained.”
I happened to find this page when I was searching the answer for my question about English articles.
Could you please tell me if the below sentence is grammatically acceptable.
If I had joined the team, I would have been a captain.
I know that dictionaries say that we don’t basically put any article before “captain,” like
“They elected Jim captain of the team, ” but are there any exceptions?
I don’t know that there’s a particular rule about not using the before captain. Both Merriam-Webster’s Learner’s Dictionary and the Macmillan Online Dictionary are silent on this.
I think the confusion may be from the fact that captain is also a title and can be used as part of someone’s name, like Captain Jack Sparrow (bad example, but you get the idea!), and instead of his name people can just call him “captain.”
Regarding your sentence:
“If I had joined the team, I would have been a captain.”
Is there more than one captain? Are there two or three captains? If you would have been one of many captains, then use a.
If there is only one captain, and you would have been the only captain, use captain or the captain.
“If I had joined the team, I would have been captain.”
“If I had joined the team, I would have been the captain.”
Thank you so much for your prompt reply, Melanie.
Your explanation was super clear.
I appreciate it.
I am wandering if we sometimes could avoid using an appropriate “the” in academic writing, in general. May I say “aesthetics” or “ethics”, for instance within this title: (The) aesthetics/ethics of war songs, etc.In a word, to what extend we can avoid using ‘the’ within the context of academic work? I simply can notice that many scholars use (properly?!) “the” at the same place/context when the others avoid it.
I am sorry but I don’t have a definite answer for you! I am not an expert in academic writing.
The Purdue online writing lab has a section on academic writing. You may find an answer to your question there:
The University of Toronto also has a special section on writing advice. You may find an answer to your question in the “English Language” section:
All the best to you!
Is it necessary to use “the” before New York in the sentence: The New York of the 21st century is different from that of the 19th century.
Thank you in advance.
This is a good question, Svetlana!
Yes, you should use the in front of New York in your sentence. There is only one New York City, but you are comparing two different versions of the city, so the is necessary.
Nilim Goswami says
What about the name of the universities and institutes? Does our ‘the’ have something to do with the position of the word “university” or “institution” ? I mean –
He graduated from the University of California, Barkley VS Oxford University is world-famous for academic excellence.
Yes, you are correct, Nilim!
If the name of the university begins with University, you need to use the.
I am very confused about the use of ‘the’, please help.
Which sentences are correct?
“I came to school” or “I came to the school”
“I woke up in morning” or “I woke up in the morning”
“I wake up in morning” or “I wake up in the morning”
I fixed your comment for you :)
“In the morning” is a fixed expression, so you can memorize that. There is no rule, that’s just the way you say the phrase.
Without context, both of your first sentences are correct.
School is both an uncountable and a countable noun. If you are talking about school in the general sense of education, then don’t use the. Also, don’t use the if you are just talking about going to school every day.
“I came to school early today.”
“I go to school during the week.”
“I go to school every day.”
If you are talking about the actual building, like if you have to go there for a meeting or something, use the.
“We have to be at the school at 7pm for a meeting with our daughter’s teacher.”
Geeta Nambiar says
I chanced upon your website and looked through as many answers as I had time for. Congratulations on the yeoman service you are providing. My question is ..Is it correct to say ” when I was in first class…”
ie using the ordinal number without the article ” the”
I am in a village at the moment and may not be able to access the net for a week but i will look for your response as soon a s possible.
Thank you very much.
Thank you for your kind words!
“when I was in first class…”
It depends on your meaning of “first class“! Can you give me more information about your sentence, specifically about first class?
Remember that it is the noun that determines whether you need an article.
If you mean “first class” on a train or on airplane, then you don’t need the. This use of first class is an uncountable noun and doesn’t need the.
Thank you! In my opinion your article is ‘the’ clearest one out of there!
I asked this question a couple of weeks ago but received no response.
Avenger is a specific car. Is it “I pushed Avenger up to the starting grid?” or “I pushed the Avenger up to the starting grid?”
Your comments were caught in my spam filter! I’m sorry for the delay.
“Avenger is a specific car.”
Is that a name you gave the car? In that case, it would be like using someone’s name.
“I pushed Avenger up to the starting grid.”
(Imagine the sentence as “I pushed LEM up to the starting grid.”)
Or is it a name that the car manufacturer gave the car, the like the Dodge Avenger?
“I pushed the Avenger up to the starting grid.”
Sivaneswaary H. says
First of all, I really love your explanation!
I have a questions,which is correct?
a) The boy was taken to the Orlando’s police station.
b) The boy was taken to Orlando’s police station.
Thanks a million!
Generally the definite article is not used with the possessive form.
The main issue is how many police stations are there in Orlando? Is there only one police station?
“The boy was taken to the Orlando police station.”
Is there more than one police station?
“The boy was taken to an Orlando police station.”
susanne kienapfel says
Hi Melanie! Articles are really difficult to use. I’ve been teaching NYC and its sights to my students and I’m never really sure why sometimes you use “the” and sometimes you don’t. I’ve even seen e.g. Brooklyn Bridge with “the” even though I’ve always thought it goes without article. Why is it “Times Square” or “Central Park” but “THE Empire State Building” or “THE 9/11 Memorial Plaza”? Are there any rules for the usages of definite articles?
Thank you very much in advance!
These are great questions, Susanne!
I can’t find any specific rules about definite articles for buildings, bridges, and squares/plazas.
However, I recommend using the if the name includes the type of location like building or bridge. The isn’t used with square.
There are so many bridges and buildings in New York, I think that the is used to differentiate one from the other:
the Brooklyn Bridge
the Manhattan Bridge
the George Washington Bridge
the Empire State Building
the Chrysler Building
the Flat Iron Building
The New York Times Building
However, you don’t need to capitalize the because it’s not officially part of the name.
The name for the location is the National September 11 Memorial & Museum. It includes a plaza as part of the memorial, so I think the is used because of the noun memorial, not the noun plaza.
I have a question about adverb.
What role do adverbs like “finally”, “fortunately”, “sadly” and the like play in a translated text, if they are not present in the original?
I’m sorry, but I don’t have an answer to your question. I am not a translator. I have no experience translating text into English.
I guess that it depends on the meaning of your original text. If the adverbs convey the same meaning as the original text, then add them to your translation.
Best of luck to you,
i want to ask regarding use of article in following sentence:
Bill enjoys reading…….mystery novels.
I have to fill the blank in above sentence from options “a”, “an”, “the” or “no article”. kindly share the right option with detailed reason please.
“Bill enjoys reading mystery novels.”
The correct answer is: no article.
This is because of point #1 above. You are talking about mystery novels in general.
We are going to talk about the nouns today.
Why “the” is incorrect in this sentences.
Can you explain it, please?
“We are going to talk about nouns today.” This is because of point #1 above. You are talking about nouns in general, so you don’t need to use the.
“the” russian regional economic growth, or
russian regional economic growth?
My first answer is “Russian regional economic growth,” but it also depends on the rest of your sentence.
I have a lot of questions regarding the definite article.
1. Can we use “the” before Office, Government and parliament?
2. Can we say I am going to the Yes Fm party (no article before Yes Fm Party?) (Or is it Yes Fm’s Party?)
3. When talking in conversational English, is it okay to omit “a,an, and the”? I see in movies and TV series, people say “lot” instead of “a lot’ and things like car is cool. place is awesome. is this usage correct?
4. Saw in a dictionary when ordering food in a posh restaurant, the is used before the dish.
Kindly clarify my doubts.
1. Office, government and parliament are all nouns. You can use the before them. Do you have specific sentences with these words that you have questions about?
2. You should say, “I am going to the Yes FM party.”
3. No, it’s not OK to omit a, an, or the. You might not hear them clearly because they are reduced and said very quickly, but those words should be there!
4. Yes, but not just in a posh restaurant. This is standard in any restaurant, except for fast food places like McDonald’s. In a restaurant say, “I would like the California burger” or “Can I get the Caesar salad?” At McDonald’s say, “Can I get a Big Mac and a diet Coke?”
Ali Samadi says
First of all, your explanations are really useful, thank you.
I have a questions, which one is correct?
a) The Holly Shrine of Imam Reza/ Imam Khomeini etc.
b) Holly Shrine of Imam Reza/ Imam Khomeini etc.
Since there is only one holly shrine for each of these people, I think we should use THE but I am not sure!
Thanks a lot
First, there is a small typo in your comment. Holy is spelled with one L! This is important because the word holly means something else. Holy with one L means connected to a god or religion (Merriam-Webster’s Learner’s Dictionary). Holly with two Ls is a type of tree, and the branches and berries of the tree are used as decorations at Christmas.
You are correct that the names need the:
“The Holy Shrine of Imam Reza.”
Thank you for your sharing! I have many difficulties in usage of articles. So all examples you present here are very important for me. Thank you vere much!
I have a question. Could you please explain why “the” is not used in the parts that I have indicated with the parentheses?
Little is known about the lives of early human beings. What we do know has been gathered through the study of ancient caves that scientists called archeologists believe (Why is “the” missing?) early humans probably lived in.
The evidence suggests that the first human beings lived in (Why is “the” missing?) caves along the southern coast of Africa. This region provided ample supplies of food as well as a warm climate.
The text above is from https://kidspast.com/world-history/prehistoric-humans/
Thanks a lot in advance. =)
Good question, Gloria!
In both of your examples, the is not used because the author is not talking about a specific group or early humans or a specific group of caves.
In the second sentence of the paragraph, the author uses “early humans” without the because he is talking about early humans in general. In the next sentence, the author uses “the first humans beings” with the because he is now talking about a specific group of early humans, in this case the first early humans.
In the 3rd sentence, the author uses “caves” without the because he is not talking about any specific caves along the southern coast of Africa. If he was talking about a specific group of caves, like the high caves at Pinnacle Point, then he would have used the.
Cedric M. MOUSSOUNDA says
Thank you for the blog post, I used it for my daughter’s homework and now she (and I ! ) feel more confident with that now!
SOOOO HELPFUL!! I have a Japanese student that I’ve been working on this with, but this is by far the most thorough and helpful explanation I’ve seen :) Thank you!
thank you teacher Melanie ,
please can you help me to know the correct use of ‘the’ in these sentences , and correct the wrong:
1- The big ben is a man-made clock landmark.
2- Big ben is a clock in london.
Big Ben is actually the name of the bell in the tower, although most people call the clock tower Big Ben, too. You don’t need to use the with a name.
The correct sentence is, “Big Ben is a clock tower in London.”