the Definite Article


The definite article precedes nouns that are definite. A noun is definite when it is known to both the writer/speaker and the reader/listener.


Definite: The refrigerator is broken. (Known to both the writer/speaker and reader/listener)
Indefinite: I watched a great movie last night. (Known to the writer/speaker, not known to reader/listener)
Indefinite: Everybody says that you have a new girlfriend. (Not known to the writer/speaker, known to reader/listener)
Indefinite: I need to join a gym. (Not known to writer/speaker. Not known to reader/listener)


definite article

Rule 4.1: Use the definite article when a noun has previously been mentioned.


I bought a ring. The ring was expensive.
I’m looking at some chairs. The chairs look comfortable.
My teacher gave me some homework. The homework was hard.


Exercise 1: Fill in the blanks with a, an, the, or ø.

Rule 4.2: Use the definite article when you want to point a noun out and make it definite.


Definite: The teapot is on the table. (a specific teapot, the one on the table)
Definite: Frank doesn’t like the restaurant across the street. (a specific restaurant, the one across the street)


Incorrect use of the definite article will invite requests for clarification:

I’m reading the book. (which book?)
Debby cut down the tree. (Which tree?)
Do you have the tie? (Which tie?)
Tony likes the explanations. (Which explanations?)


Correct use of the definite article requires no clarification:

I’m reading the book I got for my birthday.
Debby cut down the tree in front of her house.
Do you have the tie I lent you yesterday?
Tony likes the explanations that his teacher gives.


Exercise 2: Correct or incorrect?

Exercise 3: Fill in the blanks with a, an, Ø, or the


Rule 4.3: Use the definite article when there is a clear association to a previously mentioned noun.


I have a TV, but the screen is broken.
Frank lit a cigarette. The tobacco tasted cool and fresh.
Sue watched a soccer game last night. The referee was unfair.


Exercise 4: Fill in the blanks with a, an, or the.


Rule 4.4: Use the definite article with nouns where only one is thought to exist. (There may be others of the same type, but they are usually not considered)


Fortunetellers claim that they can predict the future.
Nothing is bigger than the universe.
Life was quite different before the Internet.
Turn up the radio! I love this song!
What’s the weather going to be like tomorrow?


Exercise 5: Fill in the blanks with a, an, or the.


Rule 4.5: Do not use the indefinite article a, an, or the definite article the with certain other words that are used with nouns.


Words that cannot be used with the indefinite or definite article:

this
that
these
those
any
another

either
enough
every
neither
some
my

your
his
her
its
our
their

 

Correct: Where did you buy your book?
Correct: Where did you buy the book?
Incorrect: Where did you buy the your book?


Exercise 6: Fill in the blanks with a, an, ø, or the.