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The Definite Article (“the”)

We can use the definite article with all nouns, countable and uncountable, singular and plural:
the boy, the girls, the cat, the computers, the water 


If the following word begins with a vowel, we say [ði], and if the following word begins with a consonant, we say [ðə]
[ðə] [ði]
the following word starts with a spoken consonant the following word starts with a spoken vowel
the girl the English girl
the book the apple
the school the old school
the unit
Here a [J] is pronounced at the beginning of the word.
the uncle
 Here a [Ʌ] is pronounced at the beginning of the word.


The vs. No Article

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

No article


general words (indefinite) general words (definite)
Life is too short.
I like flowers.
I've read a book on the life of Bill Clinton.
I like the flowers in your garden.
singular names of people, relatives family names in the plural
Peter and John live in London.
Aunt Mary lives in Los Angeles.
The Smiths live in Chicago.
 public buildings, institutions, means of transport (indefinite)  public buildings, institutions, means of transport (definite)
Mandy doesn't like school.
We go to school by bus.
Some people go to church on Sundays.
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 names of countries in the plural; mountain ranges; regions
Germany, France;
Mount Whitney, Mount McKinley;
Africa, Europe;
Cairo, New York
the United States of America, the Netherlands;
the Highlands, the Rocky Mountains, the Alps;
the Middle East, the west of Australia
single islands groups of islands
Corfu, Bermuda, Sicily the Bahamas, the British Isles, the Canaries
parks; lakes; streets name with of-phrase; oceans; seas; rivers
Central Park, Hyde Park;
Lake Michigan, Loch Ness;
42nd Street, Oxford Street
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) months, days of the week (definite)
The weekend is over on Monday morning.

July and August are the most popular months for holidays.
I always remember the Monday when I had an accident.

The August of 2001 was hot and dry.

Using “the” with Seasons of the Year

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

The American English word for autumn ('fall') is always used with the definte article.

The Usage Depends on the Context

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

The student goes to school.

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 in the second sentence.