Free English Grammar Lesson – Using THE

English grammar lesson online. Today we look at how to use the definite article THE

The view from the top of the building is amazing!

The view from the top of the building is amazing!

I like animals. I sometimes go to the animal shelter in my neighborhood and play with the dogs. I saw a cute dog and a cute cat yesterday. The dog was white with a brown spot on his nose. The cat was black, with some white on his belly.

Using the can be tricky for a lot of English grammar students, so today I want to show you how we can use the and how we think about using the. I’d like to focus this lesson on when we use the in the following situation. When we believe the listener knows exactly what noun we are talking about, we use the. There are five such situations.

  • Use the because there is only one of these in the world:
    • The president is going to London next week.
    • The moon is full tonight.
    • The mayor of NYC is Michael Bloomberg.
  • Use the with a superlative adjective, because here too, there is only one of these in the world:
    • Jack is the most experienced salesman in the company.
    • The Empire State Building is the tallest building in New York.
    • That brand of coffee is the cheapest one, but it tastes good
  • Use the when there is only one in the area you are in now, or in the town, city, or part of the world you are in:
    • The coffee shop on Madison Ave. has nice coffee.
    • Do you know where the remote control is?
    • What time does the post office close?
  • Use the when you mention something for the second time:
    • I saw a cute dog this morning. The dog was wearing a red sweater.
    • I bought a new cell phone with a case, but the case has a broken zipper.
    • I love Casablanca. I’ve seen the movie about ten times.
  • Use the when you are talking about a specific noun and not a random or non-specific noun. Compare these two sentences.
    • I took my sister to the doctor yesterday. I am thinking about a specific doctor, which is the doctor she always goes to. I believe you understand that situation, so I use the doctor.
    • I was on vacation in Miami and my sister got sick, so we looked for a doctor. I am not thinking of a specific doctor, but any doctor, a random doctor, one among all of the doctors in Miami. Thus, I used a doctor.

We often use the in situations like this, when we are thinking about a specific place, and even though the listener may not know the exact place we are thinking of, we believe the listener also knows we are thinking of some specific place. Here are two more examples:

  • I hate waiting in an airport for a connecting flight. Here, I am referring to any airport in general and not a specific airport.
  • I went to the airport to pick up my sister. Here, I am thinking about a specific airport, which is the airport my sister was flying into.

Here are a few more examples of using the this way:

  • I usually get to the train station at 7:00am. I am thinking of the station I always go to and I believe you understand that situation.
  • I hate going to the motor vehicle department.
  • I went to the post office to buy stamps.

The list of rules and exceptions to using the is long and those rules are often rather abstract. I hope the lesson I showed you here is helpful for studying the most difficult word in English.

If you know anyone who has trouble with this English language point, why not help them out! Just share this lesson with them. Thanks for studying today!



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English Lesson: Articles with Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

English Lesson: Articles with Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

English Lesson: Articles with Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

As I’m sure you know, food is one of my highest joys in life. I especially love breakfast. There is something about breakfast food like eggs, toast, and bacon that makes me feel good. My sister, on the other hand, likes brunch. The brunch at a hotel in town is very good, and we go there once in a while to have it. As for dinner, I like a variety of restaurants. From steak to sushi, I’m happy going out seven days a week…if I could.

The nouns we use for meals (breakfast, brunch, lunch, dinner, and supper) sometimes take an article, and sometimes don’t.  Do you know the rules? Have a look at the paragraph above and then check today’s lesson:

When breakfast, brunch, lunch, dinner, and supper are used to refer to our everyday meals, they is no article.

  • I can skip lunch, but I need to have breakfast each morning.
  • Paul invited me to have brunch at his house on Sunday.
  • What do you usually have dinner?

When breakfast, brunch, lunch, dinner, and supper are used to refer to special events, or set meals at restaurants, then you need to use an article with them.

  • The breakfast at the hotel includes juice, coffee, unlimited buffet, and dessert.
  • Lori said the Sunday brunch at the Plaza is amazing.
  • I was invited to a dinner for Jack’s retirement.

Which is your favorite meal of the day? What do you like to eat for breakfast? What time do you usually eat dinner?

English Lesson: Articles. When to Use “The”

I saw a man and a woman today. The man was very short, and the woman was very tall. The man was carrying a newspaper. I don’t usually read the newspaper. The news is generally bad anyway, so why bother.  

We spent some time this week talking about nouns and the indefinite articles a and an. Click here if you need to review. Today, let’s talk about the definite article, the. There are three basic rules for using the.

Talking about specific or particular things

When a noun represents a specific or particular thing, use the. Compare the following sentences:

1. I ate a banana. (It’s not a specific banana, just one of many)

2. I ate the banana I bought yesterday. (It’s a specific banana – the banana I bought yesterday)

1. We had a meeting this morning.  (It’s not a particular meeting, just one of many)

2. We had the budget meeting this morning (It’s a particular meeting – the budget meeting)

1. Jenny gave me a nice pen. (There are many pens, Jenny gave me one)

2. Thanks for the nice pen you gave me. (The nice pen is specifically the one you gave me)

Mentioning something for the second time

When you mention a general noun the second time in the conversation, use the. When you talk about something for the second time, that something is a particular thing, so we use the for the second mention.

  • I saw a man and a woman today. The man was very short, and the woman was very tall. (The second time I mention man and woman, I use the)
  • I have a car. The car is a Jeep.
  • I heard a noise last night. The noise came from the backyard.

Talking about common knowledge

When you believe the listener knows the specific thing you are talking about, use the. When you talk about something that is common knowledge, that something is a particular thing, so we use the for things that are common knowledge.

  • I don’t usually read the newspaper. (I believe you understand what a newspaper is. It’s common knowledge)
  • The news is generally bad anyway, so why bother.  (I believe you understand what news is. It’s common knowledge)
  • Someone took my bag! Call the police! (I believe you know what I mean when I say the police. It’s common knowledge)
  • Joe is sick. He went to the hospital last night. (I believe you know what I mean when I say the hospital. It’s common knowledge)

These are the basic rules of articles. The basic rules. There are a lot of exceptions as well and we will cover those at a later date. Thanks for studying today.