The definite article – the

The definite article – the

The definite article the is the same for all genders in singular and in plural.

  • the boy
  • the girl
  • the cat
  • the computers

If the following word begins with a consonant, we speak [ðə], if the following word begins with a vowel, we speak [ði:].

[ðə] [ði:]
the following word starts with a spoken consonant
  • the girl
  • the book
  • the school
the following word starts with a spoken vowel
  • the English girl
  • the orange book
  • the old school
Compare the following words:
Here [j] is pronounced at the beginning of the word → the unit
Here [ʌ] is pronounced at the beginning of the word → the uncle

We have listed some examples in the following table. There you can see when we use the definite article and when we don't.

without the definite article with the definite article – the
general words (indefinite)
  • Life is too short.
  • I like flowers.
general words (definite)
  • I've read a book on the life of Bill Clinton.
  • I like the flowers in your garden.
names of persons on the singular, relatives
  • Peter and John live in London.
  • Aunt Mary lives in Los Angeles.
family names in the plural
  • The Smiths live in Chicago.
public buildings, institutions, means of transport (indefinite)
  • Mandy doesn't like school.
  • We go to school by bus.
  • Some people go to church on Sundays.
public buildings, institutions, means of transport (definite)
  • The school that Mandy goes to is old.
  • The bus to Dresden leaves at 7.40.
  • The round church in Klingenthal is famous.
names of countries in the singular, summits of mountains, continents, towns
  • Germany
  • France
  • Mount Whitney
  • Mount McKinley
  • Africa
  • Europe
  • Cairo
  • New York
names of countries in the plural, mountain ranges, regions
  • the United States of America
  • the Netherlands
  • the Highlands
  • the Rocky Mountains
  • the Alps
  • the Middle East
  • the west of Australia
single islands
  • Corfu
  • Bermuda
  • Sicily
groups of islands
  • the Bahamas
  • the British Isles
  • the Canaries
parks, lakes, streets
  • Central Park
  • Hyde Park
  • Lake Michigan
  • Loch Ness
  • 42nd Street
  • Oxford Street
name with of-phrase, oceans, seas, rivers
  • the Statue of Liberty
  • the Tower (of London)
  • the Isle of Wight
  • the Atlantic (Ocean)
  • the Mediterranean (Sea)
  • the Nile
  • the Rhine
  • the Suez Canal
months, days of the week (indefinite)
  • The weekend is over on Monday morning.
  • July and August are the most popular months for holidays.
months, days of the week (definite)
  • I always remember the Monday when I had an accident.
  • The August of 2001 was hot and dry.

We use the seasons of the year (spring, summer, autumn, winter) with or without the definite article.

  • in summer
  • in the summer

The American English word fall is always used with the definite article the.


Sometimes we use the article and sometimes we do not. It often depends on the context. Watch the following example:

  1. The student goes to school.
  2. The mother goes to the school.

In the first sentence we do not use the definite article, in the second we do. The student goes to school for its primary purpose, so we do not use the article.

The mother might talk to a teacher, for example. She visits the school for a different reason. That's why we use the definite article the in the second sentence.