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.