The definite article the is the most frequent word in English.

We use the definite article in front of a noun when we believe the hearer/reader knows exactly what we are referring to.

because there is only one:

The Pope is visiting Russia.

The moon is very bright tonight.

The Shah of Iran was deposed in 1979.

This is why we use the definite article with a superlative adjective:

He is the tallest boy in the class.

It is the oldest building in the town.

because there is only one in that place or in those surroundings:

because we have already mentioned it:

A woman who fell 10 metres from High Peak was lifted to safety by a helicopter. The woman fell while climbing.一个女人从高峰上向下摔了10米,直升飞机将其救起。这个女人是正在登山的时候掉下来的。

The rescue is the latest in a series of incidents on High Peak. In January last year two men walking on the peak were killed in a fall.这次救援是在高峰上发生的一系列事故中最近的一次。在去年的一月,两个男人在登山时坠落身亡。

We also use the definite article: to say something about all the things referred to by a noun:

The wolf is not really a dangerous animal (= Wolves are not really dangerous animals)

The kangaroo is found only in Australia (= Kangaroos are found only in Australia)

The heart pumps blood around the body. (= Hearts pump blood around bodies)

We use the definite article in this way to talk about musical instruments:

Joe plays the piano really well.(= George can play any piano)

She is learning the guitar.(= She is learning to play any guitar)

• With adjectives like rich, poor, elderly, unemployed to talk about groups of people:

Life can be very hard for the poor.

I think the rich should pay more taxes.

She works for a group to help the disabled.

The definite article with names:

We do not normally use the definite article with names:

William Shakespeare wrote Hamlet.

Paris is the capital of France.

Iran is in Asia.

But we do use the definite article with:

countries whose names include words like kingdom, states or republic:

the United Kingdom; the kingdom of Nepal; the United States; the People’s Republic of China.

countries which have plural nouns as their names:

the Netherlands; the Philippines

geographical features, such as mountain ranges, groups of islands, rivers, seas, oceans and canals:

the Himalayas; the Canaries; the Atlantic; the Atlantic Ocean; the Amazon; the Panama Canal.


The Times; The Washington Post

well known buildings or works of art:

the Empire State Building; the Taj Mahal; the Mona Lisa; the Sunflowers


the United Nations; the Seamen’s Union

hotels, pubs and restaurants*:

the Ritz; the Ritz Hotel; the King’s Head; the Déjà Vu

*Note: We do not use the definite article if the name of the hotel or restaurant is the name of the owner, e.g.,Brown’s; Brown’s Hotel; Morel’s; Morel’s Restaurant, etc.


the Obamas; the Jacksons