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In the English language, there are two major divisions of articles, definite articles and indefinite articles. Articles are applied before nouns or words that are equivalent to nouns. The indefinite articles are “a” and “an” which are used when before a general noun or before a noun that is not identified before. In this essay we are going to be looking at the definite article “the” which is used before a noun to which the identity is well known to the reader (Mironova 2016).

The article “the” is used in front of both singular and plural nouns. It is also sometimes used before adjectives that are familiar to the reader or listener (McArthur 2018). For example in a basketball court, you may say, “Pass me the ball” to your teammates because they are aware the ball you are referring to and it possibly could not be any other ball. Another example would be, “I would like a cup of coffee using the cup”. Again in this example the reader or listener to this statement has prior knowledge of the cup being referred to. If instead of “the cup” it was “a cup” then this cup would be a new cup we have no knowledge about or any cup present. The plural form “the cups” would also be appropriate.

Another use of this article is in a situation where the noun being referred to is unique, one of a kind and would not be mistaken for any other noun (McArthur 2018). For example, “Charles Darwin came up with the theory of evolution”. In this example the theory of evolution is just one that is well known to the listener or reader. Another example would be, “A government allocates the federal budget”. There can never be two budgets referred to as federal budgets, this means that the parties involved are well conversant with the federal budget being referred to.

Article “the” is also used before non-count nouns (McArthur 2018). For instance, “Do not drink the water”. Water is a non-count noun. It has no plural or singular. If the non-count noun being referred to is conversant to the parties involved, then the article “the” can be applied (Sharifian 2017). Nouns that also fall in this category are abstract nouns such beauty, advice, anger, information, knowledge, excreta… An example in a sentence is, “The feelings I once had for her are back”.

Other keynote placement regions of the article “the” are such as; when referring to united countries, for example, “the United States of America” or “the United Kingdom”. You should not use article “the” before nouns referring to a city, street, country, bay, excreta… For example it would be wrong to say “the Africa” or “the Europe” unless you are referring to a property about the continents, for example “the African migration” or “the Japanese trade”. This is a problem especially to people who originally speak French (Chun 2016).

Applying article “the” in statement while speaking or reading out loud will help you identify its appropriateness in a given statement (Borg 2018). The more you practice, the better you will get at it.










Borg, S., & Edmett, A. (2018). Developing a self-assessment tool for English language teachers. Language Teaching Research, 1362168817752543.

Chun, D., Kern, R., & Smith, B. (2016). Technology in language use, language teaching, and language learning. The Modern Language Journal100(S1), 64-80.

McArthur, T., Lam-McArthur, J., & Fontaine, L. (Eds.). (2018). Oxford companion to the English language. Oxford University Press.

Mironova, A. D., & Shevchenko, A. E. (2016). English language as the basis for successful cross-cultural communication during exchange program. In Humanities education in a university of economics (pp. 274-279).

Sharifian, F. (2017). English as an international language. The International Encyclopedia of Intercultural Communication, 1-5.

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