Nouns: definite article


The house he bought - A casa que ele comprou

The is the only definite article in English. We use it when the noun (things, people, etc.) is specified or defined in the context (because there is only one or the listener knows what we are talking about):

  • The dog is happy. (a specific dog; they know which dog I am referring to)
  • The tomatoes are red. (specific tomatoes; they know which tomatoes I am referring to)
  • The Prime Minister is delivering a speech. (there is only one Prime Minister)
  • The US president met the Pope. (there is only one US president and one Pope)

We use the definite article when using the superlative:

  • Russia is the coldest country in the world.

We also use it when saying names of countries or regions that are plural:

  • The United States, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, the United Arab Emirates, etc.

We use it with oceans, rivers, islands and other geographical features:

  • The Pacific Ocean, the Nile River, the Mediterranean, the Alps, etc.

We also use it with musical instruments:

  • I can play the piano.
  • Can he play the guitar?
Further learning
Description Author Language
Some basic rules of when and when not to use 'the'. Smrt English
When we can use 'the' and how sometimes 'the' = 'enough'. BBC Learning
Some differences between English and Portuguese in terms of using the definite article. Eduardo Gafa


This grammar section includes materials sourced from the following: Linguapress,