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01 January 2013

Grammar: The Article "THE"

1. We use “THE” when we are talking about a specific thing:
·         Rob: I made a sandwich. (We use “a” because this is the first time you mention “sandwich.”)
·         Jill: Really, wow. Where’s the sandwich? (We put “the” with sandwich now because we are referring to a specific sandwich- the sandwich that Rob made)

2. We always put “THE” with “same.” [The same]
·         We have the same name.  They go to the same school.

3. We always put “THE” with:
·         natural bodies of water: the river, the lake, the bay, the sea, the ocean
·         natural land forms: the hill, the mountain
·         and celestial bodies: the sun, the moon, the star, the sky,
However, you should only put the if you are focusing more on the action rather a specific place or you are talking about places.

ü  will go to the mountains.
Of course, you are going to a specific mountain but your focus is more on the action “will go.”
ü  I will go to Mount Saint Michael.
In this sentence, your focus is going to “Mt. Saint Michael.”  You’re not just going to any mountain but Mt. Saint Michael to be exact. Therefore, if it is important to name the place, do not use the common noun (the mountain) but use the proper noun (Mt. Saint Michael)

More examples:
ü  Let’s have a picnic by the river
ü  Let’s have a picnic on the banks on Rob River.

4. We usually put “THE” with top, middle, bottom, left and right.
·         It’s on the top of the cabinet.  It’s in the middle of the room.  It’s at the bottom of the bottle.  He is on the left.  I will put it here on the right.
·         It is also correct to say, “Put it on top of the desk.” This is usually more common in spoken English.

5. We always put “THE” with musical instruments if we are talking about ability or inability to play.
·         I play the piano.  I can’t play the guitar.
·         Not ability or inability: Do you have a piano in your house? I like your guitar.  Sorry Sir, we don’t sell trumpets.

6. We always put “THE” with radio if we are talking about listening to it.
·         I usually listen to the radio.

7. We can put “THE” with a specific word item if we are simply identifying or classifying the item
·         The computer is a useful tool.  The computer was invented many years ago. The computer has changed people’s lives.  The computer is an electronic device.
You can also use the plural form of the noun but remove the article “the”:
·         Computers are useful tools.  Computers were invented many years ago. Computers have changed people’s lives.  Computers are electronic devices.

·         However, we use the article “a” or “an” if you are defining an item or a living thing. 
·         A dog is a type of mammal.  A chair is a stable, raised surface used to sit on, commonly for use by one person.

8. We also use “THE” if there are two people with the same name and we want to differentiate one from the other.
·         He is not the Rob San Miguel that I met last week. His name may be Rob San Miguel but he’s not the Rob San Miguel.

Usually, we use “THE” to refer to a famous person.
·         A: I have a meeting with Brad Pitt.
·         B: Do you mean the Brad Pitt or just a man who has the same name as Brad Pitt?
·         A: I mean the Brad Pitt, Angelina Jolie’s partner.

9. We use “THE” if we identify the person with his or her job
·         The writer J.K. Rowling will be attending the seminar next month.
·         In some instances, speakers remove the “the” and simply say “Writer J.K. Rowling will be here.”  But this is mostly done in spoken English.
·         However, we do not usually use this kind of pattern if the person is not famous or distinguished.  For example, it is not common to say, “I met the baker Rob San Miguel.” 

10. We always put “THE” with superlative adjectives:
The best, the worst, the tallest, the most beautiful
·         It is the most beautiful movie that I have ever seen so far.

11. We always put “THE” with seasons: 
The summer, the winter, the fall, the spring, the New Year (holiday)
·         However, it is also correct not to put any article.
·         I will go there in the winter. I will go there in winter.

12. We put “THE” with morning, afternoon, evening:
·          I usually have breakfast in the morning.  I go to school in the afternoon and I go to the gym in the evening.
Howeverwe do not put “THE” if we are talking about “all morning, all afternoon, all evening.”
·         I will be here all morning. (This means from 6 a.m. to 12 p.m.)
We also do not put “THE” if we are referring to morning, afternoon and evenings in general, meaning not particular.
·         Morning is always a happy time. 
·         Evenings with the Parks are always interesting. Mr. and Mrs. Park are such excellent hosts.

13. We put “THE” with past, present, and future
·         In the past, women were not allowed to vote.
·         Women have more freedom in the present.
·         More people will be travelling abroad in the future.

14. The hospital, the school, the prison: If you are going to these places as a visitor, use “THE”
·         I will go to the hospital to visit my friend.
·         My mother is in the school because our principal invited her for a meeting.
·         Rob is in the prison to interview the warden.

If you are in these places to stay, do not put any article.
·         John is in hospital (John is sick).
·         Mary is in school (She is a student and she is studying)
·         Rob is in prison (Rob is a criminal and he is behind bars).

15. We always say “The police.”
·         The police came after the robber who took all my stuff.  I am scared of the police.  Call the police!

16. Some places and institutions have “THE” as part of their proper names.
·         The Philippines. The United States of America. The United Nations.  The Hague.  The Pentagon.  The White House. The Alps. The Andes.

17.  We put “THE” with famous monuments, buildings and other structures:
·         The Eiffel Tower. The Leaning Tower of Pisa.  The Coliseum.  The Great Wall of China.  The Taj Mahal. The Pyramids.

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