The — definite article
any (a) — particular (the)
Study these sentences.
I want to buy a car.
Here we mean a category — any car, not a bicycle and not a motorbike.
I've left my phone in the car.
= in my car, not in any car
We use the article "the" when we mention a particular, specific thing or person.
Bernard works as a hotel manager. = it's a category, there are a lot of hotel managers in the world and Bernard is among them
Can I speak to the hotel manager? = the particular manager of this hotel, not any manager in the world
It's not easy to choose a laptop. = any laptop, not a computer and not a tablet
I've spilt coffee on the laptop. = my laptop
Let's bake a cake! = any cake, not biscuits and not pancakes
The cake was delicious! = the cake that we were eating
These more specific cases are all about the same principle: "the" is for something particular
- We use "the" when the object was indefinite and then became definite. It can happen when we mention it for the second time or continue the same topic.
I had a strange dream last night. The dream was about time travel. = that dream I had yesterday
We had a meeting. The debate was very hot. = the debate at that meeting
- We use "the" when the object is the only one in its kind, there can't be the second one.
What is the name of this model? = a model can have only one name
Tokyo is the capital of Japan. = there can be only one capital
Obama was the president of the USA until 2017. = there can be only one president
It is the best app for runners. = "the" is always used with the superlatives
- We use "the" when we talk about objects in our house or in the town.
Paola is in the bedroom. = in her bedroom
There's a stain on the carpet. = on our carpet
Put the bowl on the table. = on the particular table in the house
How can I get to the city centre? = a city can only have one centre
Where is the bus stop? = the stop of the bus I need
A: Let's go to the cinema. B: No, I can't go. I have to go to the post office, then get to the bank. And in the evening we're going to the theatre.
What is the best way to get to the airport?
- Weather phenomena need "the": the sun, the sunshine, the rain, the sky, the weather.
There's a bird high in the sky.
The sun is shining, the weather is nice today.
- to the left, to the right
to the south, to the north
at the top, in the end, in the middle
Remember the following cases where we use “the”
- Musical instruments
play the piano, play the guitar, play the saxophone
- The radio, the Internet
I always listen to the radio in the car.
Do you spend much time on the Internet?
- The same
Our T-shirts are of the same colour.
These models aren't different, they are the same.
- the … of …
the Statue of Liberty
the Tower of London
The + adjective
The + adjective means a group of people:
the rich = rich people
the poor = poor people
the homeless = homeless people
the unemployed = unemployed people
the young = young people
the old = old people
the elderly = elderly people
The noun will be plural.
This organization helps the poor.
Only the rich can afford a private jet.
The elderly have the right to a good quality of life.
We can do the same with nationality adjectives that end in -ch, -sh, -ese:
a Frenchman, a Frenchwoman → the French (= French people)
an Englishman, an Englishwoman → the English (= English people)
a Chinese → the Chinese (= Chinese people)
a Japanese → the Japanese (= Japanese people)
If the nationality adjective has another ending, we add -s to make a plural noun.
a Swede → Swedes
an Indian → Indians
a Turk → Turks