Hey there! This is TOP episode 112: 18 Uses Of ‘The’ You Need To Know

My name’s Ola and I am an English teacher. My goal is to help you start speaking English with confidence and get rid of speaking barriers. It’s time you started speaking English fearlessly! I’ve been there. I was unable to speak English for many reasons that now I call a language blockade. Today I teach people like you how to speak English with confidence. Go to my website for full transcripts and worksheets to each episode. Happy learning! 

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Back to today’s topic, the definite article the. Every noun needs an article: there are three options: a the and zero article. Today’s episode is drawing your attention to the definite article ‘the’ only. I’m going to give you something I rarely do because I’m not a fan of such solutions. This time you’re going to get a list of situations, a list of uses of ‘the’. Why? Well, it’s not that complicated let’s say. If I focused on one use only you would have to tune in to seventeen more episodes on definite article, and that would most likely kill you. So let’s have everything we need to know and more about the definite article ‘the’. Stay till the end, because you need to practice saying the sentences out loud. Yes, there’s a practical part where you listen and repeat whole sentences. Now, I give you eighteen uses of ‘the’.

One. When the noun is used the second time in the sentence. Mentioned twice. Yesterday I bought a dress. The dress is red. A dress, one of many dresses out there, but the dress, because I’ve already mentioned the dress before so you know what dress is red. The one I bought yesterday. The means this in this context. This dress is red. The dress is red. 

Two. Specific object. This, not any other than this. Let’s see. Every day I go for a walk in the park. Why the park? Well, because I don’t go to the other side of the city, I go to the nearest park, to the one I have nearby. It’s like it’s kind of ‘my park’, the park. You don’t need to know which park it is, because the thing is it’s my park, the one near me. Or: Where did we park the car? The car. What car? The car we drove here of course. the car iI know and you know. We both know what car. 

Another example is the doctor. I went to the doctor yesterday. The doctor I usually go to with such symptoms. My doctor. The dentist. You don’t change your dentist often, do you? You usually go to the same dentist, the one you trust, right. And I don’t need to know his or her name, I don’t care. But I’m talking about your dentist. What did the dentist say? 

The airport. Look, when you travel somewhere by plane you go to the same airport. There aren’t that many airports in a country. Even if you travel from the airport you usually don’t use, still, the airport. The plane cannot fly from any place, it’s the airport and usually, there’s one in the area. 

The door. Close the door, open the door, please. Everybody in the room knows what it means, close the door. There’s usually there’s one door in a room. The same goes for the ceiling and for the floor. There’s one floor in the room and one ceiling. This one, specific ceiling. 

Listen to this sentence: I didn’t like the series, I liked the main actress though. The main actress in this specific film. There clearly was just one main actor and I liked her. 

Can you pass the salt? Why the before salt? Because I’m talking about the salt on this table, specific example. By the way. Salt is not countable, but that’s ok, ‘the’ doesn’t care if the noun is or is not countable. 

It doesn’t matter whether it’s singular or plural either. The child but also the children. Ok, coming back to when to use ‘the’: 

The people I work with are lazy. I don’t say that all people on the planet, or all people in this industry, or all people in this company are lazy,. Only those who work with me. The people I work with are lazy. 

Three. Only one example of something. There are things in this world that exist only in one example. There’s one moon, the moon, the sun, the world, the capital, the pope. Every year has its beginning and end. The beginning (just one) of the year and the end of the year. All superlative forms of adjectives and adverbs also need ‘the’. The smartest, the best, the tallest, the ultimate.

Four. Instruments. For instance: I can’t play the piano. The piano here acts as a representative of the whole group of all the pianos in the world. I can’t play the piano. Not only this one, I just can’t play any. 

I can play the guitar though. I have a guitar. The guitar is brown. But really I can play any guitar. Any Spanish guitar. 

But I can’t play the electric guitar nor the bass guitar. I don’t even have one. Do you have an electric guitar? Can you lay the electric guitar? It also applies to inventions. The Internet is the most important invention in history. 

It’s kind of similar to this sentence: My favourite animal is the tiger. Any tiger. But not just one, I mean, any specimen of the tiger is great, so to speak. So, well, I’ve seen a tiger in the zoo but he is just again, a representative of the whole group. The tiger. 

Five. We use the with an adjective to address the whole group of people. The poor, the hungry, the rich, the homeless, the injured. It’s always plural, we always refer to a whole group of people.  

Six. Some nationalities: the English, the Spanish, the Japanese.

Seven. Countries but only those which have: republic, kingdom or states in the name. For instance:: The UK – The United Kingdom, The USA – The United States of America, The Czech Republic. 

Eight. Oceans, rivers, seas, and channels: The Atlantic Ocean, the Mediterranean Sea, The Channel, The Nile, The Vistula River. Deserts: The Sahara, the Gobi Desert, The Atacama Desert. By the way, did you know that it’s quite trendy now to give children desert-inspired names? For instance: Arizona, Jordan, Cleopatra, Cleo, but also: Cobra, Dingo, Dusty, Cliff, Cougar, Dune, Camel and Cactus. Just a fun thing I’ve come across recently. 

Nine.  The names of people and places in plural:

For starters: the Adams family, the Adams. Countries: like the Netherlands. Groups of islands: The Canary Islands. Mountain ranges: The Alps, The Tatra Mountains. 

Ten. Cardinal directions: the north, the east, the south, the west of Europe.  The southeast of Kraków. The Middle East, the Far East.

Eleven. Hotels and restaurants: the Sheraton Hotel, The Black Duck, The Fat Duck. 

Twelve. Museums and galleries: the Nation Museum.  the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Art Institute, the Royal Academy of Arts, The Whitechapel Gallery. 

Thirteen. Other buildings, for instance: The Eiffel Tower, the Akropolis, The Pentagon, the Shard,  the White House. 

Fourteen. The ‘of phrase’: the great wall of China. The University of Cambridge, The Tower of London, The Voice of Poland, the last of us, the land of legends, the top of the top, the territory of Poland, the Duke of Edinburgh.

Fifteen. Newspapers: The Times, The Sun, The Guardian, The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, The Sunday Times. Listen, there are exceptions everywhere, so stay open-minded or the fact that some newspapers have no article. For instance: Daily Mail, Daily Mirror. 

Sixteen. Organisations: The United Nations, The European Union, The World Health Organisation. 

Seventeen. The prison, the hospital, the school, the church – use the if you look at these buildings from a different perspective. If you treat them as just buildings, which aren’t used by the subject of the sentence for the purpose they were created. Look, what’s the purpose of building a prison? It’s a building where people are kept as a punishment for a crime they have committed. Jail is a synonym. So if someone commits a serious crime he or she has to go to prison or to jail. Not to the jail to the prison. You’ll go to jail. She’s in prison. She’s committed a crime and knows she is in prison. But if you work in the prison you’re not a criminal, are you? That’s why we add the definite article ‘the’ to show that the building isn’t used for the purpose it was built. I just work there, or I have a friend or a family member serving their sentence. I went to the prison to conduct some research. 

It applies to many public buildings, for instance, school: My son doesn’t go to school yet. I used to work in a public school but it was just one week. It was enough for me to know for sure it’s not the right place for me. Nevertheless, I can say that on my way to the school I used to talk to myself in English. On my way to the school because I was not a student. The first purpose of school is to teach. 

Eighteen. Additional expressions I can’t group:  the sea, the country, the environment, the same, the cinema, the theatre, the radio. The end!

Pronunciation. The last thing I’d like to talk about is pronunciation. The has to pronunciation patterns, to forms. The weak form appears before consonant sounds  /ðə/, and the strong form  /ði/ before the vowel sounds. Normally, we pronounce the with a short sound. But when the comes before a vowel sound, we pronounce it as a long /ði/ When we wish to place emphasis on a particular word, we can use the strong form /ði/], whether or not the word begins with a consonant or vowel sound. Like in this dialogue:

  • Look! It’s  Keanu Reeves!
  • The Keanu Reeves??

Brilliant. Time to wrap up by giving some example sentences from today’s episode. The idea is you repeat the sentences out loud. Please learn why you have to say them out loud in episode 9. 

The dress is red.

I went to the doctor yesterday.

Every day I go for a walk in the park.

Open the door, please. 

All the money in the world couldn’t have saved her.

I’ll let you know at the end of the month.

I didn’t like the series, I liked the main actress though. 

Can you pass the salt? 

 The people I work with are lazy. 

I can’t play the piano.

Let’s go to the cinema.

Which do you prefer? Living in the city or in 

the country?

 I went to the prison to conduct some research. 

Well done! I hope this episode will help you use ‘the’ with confodence. Thank you so much for tuning in. Go to your inbox and grab the worksheet, that’s your homework. If you’re not a member download the worksheet at teacherola.com/112 and become one. It’s free. It’s worth subscribing because in my emails I give you exclusive content and worksheets every week.

Speaking of worksheets. If you haven’t started your journey with them because you think it’s too time-consuming to download each worksheet separately, I have something for you. I’m preparing a set of the first 30 worksheets to buy really soon. I’ll keep you posted, just remember to stay in touch. The best way to do so is to subscribe to this podcast on whatever platform you’re using and subscribe to my newsletter at teacherola.com/newsletter. 

Again, thank you for listening, and please share this episode with just one person. Your friend, your family member. Let’s spread the message. No matter what, you can start speaking English fearlessly. There’s zero doubt about it.

I’ll see you here next Wednesday. Come here next week, and see what to do if you’re tired of speaking English. If you feel mentally drained after one hour of speaking class for example. Happy learning. Take care! Stay fearless and say it out loud. Bye!