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From demonstrative pronoun þe, a late variant of se, originally masculine nominative, but in Middle English superceding all previous forms (se, seo, þæt).



  1. Definite grammatical article that implies necessarily that the entity it articulates is presupposed; something already mentioned, or completely specified later in the same sentence, or assumed already completely specified. Compare I’m reading a book with I’m reading the book.
    The street in front of your house. (But compare a street in Paris)
    The men and women watched the man give the birdseed to the bird.
  2. When stressed, indicates that the object in question is considered to be best or exclusively worthy of attention.
    That is the hospital to go to for heart surgery.
  3. Indicates all persons to whom an adjectival noun applies.
    Feed the hungry, clothe the naked, comfort the afflicted, and afflict the comfortable.
  4. With a superlative, indicates the person or thing to which the superlative applies.
    That apple pie was the best.
  5. Used as an alternative to a possessive pronoun before body parts.
    A stone hit him on the head. ( = “A stone hit him on his head.”)
  6. Used with the name of a member of a class to refer to all things in that class.
    The cat is a solitary creature. ( = “All cats are solitary creatures.”)


Usage notes

rel-top Usage notes The word the is pronounced /ðiː/ whenever it is pronounced as a distinct word, e.g.:
  • When it is used for emphasis (This is the hospital for heart surgery.).
  • When the speaker pauses between the and the next word (the … sovereignty).
  • In many but not all dialects, when the next word begins with a vowel (the onion) (compare with a vs. an).
The word is generally not pronounced distinctly when attached to a word beginning with a consonant, in which case the e becomes a schwa or is dropped entirely. In dialects that do not pronounce the distinctly before a vowel, a glottal stop is generally inserted (e.g., the US in the US festival would still be pronounced differently from thus in thus festival seating should be outlawed).


  • The word “the” is the most common word in the English language.


  • Afrikaans: die
  • Albanian: -a, -i
  • Amuzgo: i' s, eⁿ' p
  • Ancient Greek:
  • Arabic: -ال (ʔal-)
  • Aragonese: o , a , os m|p, as f|p
  • Armenian: -ը (ə)
  • Basque: -a
  • Breton: al i before L, an , ar i before other consonants
  • Catalan: el, lo, es, so, la, sa, els, es, sos, ets, les, ses
  • Chinese: classifiers are used as the definite article in some cases
  • Cornish:
    Kernewek Kemmyn: an
  • Czech: not used
  • Danish: i before noun -en, -et, -ne; i before adjective den, det, de
  • Dutch: de , het
  • Esperanto: la
  • Finnish: not used
  • French: le, la, les
  • Georgian: not used
  • German: der, die, das, die, ...
  • Greek: ο, η, το
  • Hawaiian: ka, ke s; na p
  • Hebrew: ‏ה-
  • Hindi: not used''
  • Hungarian: a i before consonant, az i before vowel
  • Icelandic: -inn, -in, -ið, -nir, -nar, -in
  • Indonesian: si, sang, itu
  • Interlingua: le
  • Irish: an, na
  • Italian: il, lo, la, i, gli, le
  • Japanese: not used, but often translated into その
  • Korean: not used
  • Kölsch: , die , dat
  • Latin: not used
  • Lithuanian: not used
  • Maltese: l-, il-, iċ-, id-, in-, ir-, is-, ix-, iz-, iż-
  • Maori: te s, nga p
  • Norwegian: -en, -a, -et, -ene, -a, -ene
  • Novial: li
  • Old English: se, seo, þæt
  • Polish: not used
  • Portuguese: o, a, os, as
  • Romanian: -ul, -a, -i, -le
  • Russian: not used
  • Samoan: le s, e p
  • Sicilian: lu , la ; li m, f plural
  • Spanish: el, la, los, las, lo
  • Swedish: den, det, de, -n, -en, -t, -et, -en, -na, -a
  • Tongan: te
  • Turkish: not used
  • Ukrainian: not used
  • Welsh: y, yr, 'r
  • West Frisian: de f and m, 'e f and m, it , 't
  • Yiddish: דער (der), די (di), דאָס (das)
Stressed, indicating that the object in question is the only one worthy of attention
  • Dutch: de , het
  • Finnish: se, ne
  • French: le, la, les
  • Japanese: その
  • Spanish: el
  • Swedish: den, det, de
With an adjectival noun, as in “the hungry” to mean “hungry people”
  • Dutch: de , het
  • Finnish: not used
  • French: les
  • Greek: ο, η, το; οι, τα
  • Hungarian: a i before consonant, az i before vowel
  • Italian: i, gli, le
  • Japanese: not used
  • Portuguese: o, a, os, as
  • Spanish: los, las
  • Swedish: den , det, , de p
With a superlative
  • Dutch: het
  • Finnish: not used
  • French: le, la, les
  • Greek: ο, η, το;οι, τα
  • Italian: il, lo, la; i, gli, le
  • Japanese: not used
  • Spanish: el, la, los, las, lo
  • Swedish: den, det, de i not always needed
Used as an alternative to a possessive pronoun before body parts
  • Dutch: de , het
  • Finnish: -ni, -si, -nsa, -nsä, -mme, -nne
  • French: le, la, les
  • Greek: στον (ston), στη (sti), στο (sto); στους m|p (stous), στις f|p (stis), στα n p (sta)
  • Italian: il, lo, la, i, gli, le
  • Japanese: not used
  • Spanish: el, la, los, las
  • Swedish: den, det, de, -n, -en, -t, -et; -en, -na, -a
Used with the name of a member of a class to refer to all things in that class
  • Dutch: de , het
  • Finnish: not used
  • French: le, la, les
  • Greek: ο (o), η (i), το (to); οι m,f p (oi), τα n p (ta)
  • Italian: il, lo, la, i, gli, le
  • Japanese: not used, though something+いうもの is often used.
  • Spanish: el, la, los, las
  • Swedish: -n , -en , n p, -t , -et , -na c p, -a c p


  1. With a comparative or more and a verb phrase, establishes a parallel with one or more other such comparatives.
    The hotter the better.
    The more I think about it, the weaker it looks.
    The more money donated, the more books purchased and the more happy children.
    It looks weaker and weaker, the more I think about it.
  2. With a comparative, and often with for it, indicates a result in the direction of the comparative. This can be negated with none.
    It was a difficult time, but I’m the wiser for it.
    It was a difficult time, and I’m none the wiser for it.


the + comparative, the + comparative
  • Czech: čím + comp., tím + comp.
  • Dutch: hoe + comp., hoe + comp.
  • Esperanto: ju + comp., des + comp.
  • Finnish: mitä + comp., + sitä + comp.
  • German: je + comp., + desto + comp.
  • Polish: im + comp., + tym + comp.
  • Portuguese: a + comp., o + comp., as + comp., os + comp.
  • Swedish: ju + comp., + desto + comp.




  1. mutation of te




See also

  • ye (incorporated noun)


Spoken Here: Travels Among Threatened Languages by Mark Abley (2003)



  1. alternative spelling of te

Extensive Definition

An article is a word that combines with a noun to indicate the type of reference being made by the noun. The three main articles in the English language are the, an and a. An article is sometimes called a noun marker, although this is generally considered to be an archaic term.
It is sometimes wondered which part of speech articles belong to. Despite much speculation, articles are not adjectives because they don't describe nouns; they just agree with them. Linguists place them in a different category, that of determiners.
Articles can have various functions:
  • A definite article (English the) is used before singular and plural nouns that refer to a particular member of a group.
The cat is on the black mat.
  • An indefinite article (English a, an) is used before singular nouns that refer to any member of a group.
A cat is a mammal.
  • A partitive article indicates an indefinite quantity of a mass noun; there is no partitive article in English, though the words some or any often have that function.
French: Voulez-vous du café ? ("Do you want some coffee?" or "Do you want coffee?")
  • A zero article is the absence of an article (e.g. English indefinite plural), used in some languages in contrast with the presence of one. Linguists hypothesize the absence as a zero article based on the X-bar theory.
Cats are mammals.

Logic of definite articles

In English, a definite article is mostly used to refer to an object or person who has been previously introduced. For example:
At last they came to a piece of rising ground, from which they plainly distinguished, sleeping on a distant mountain, a mammoth bear. . . . Then they requested the eldest to try and slip the belt over the bear's head. . . .
Mark Twain, Life on the Mississippi, appendix D
In this example, a bear becomes the bear because a "mammoth bear" had been previously introduced into the narrative, and no other bear was involved in the story. Only previously introduced subjects like "the bear" or unique subjects, where the speaker can assume that the audience is aware of the identity of the referent (The heart has its reasons. . . ) typically take definite articles in English.
By contrast, the indefinite article is used in situations where a new subject is being introduced, and the speaker assumes that the hearer is not yet familiar with the subject:
There was an old woman who lived in a shoe. . .
— A traditional nursery rhyme
Reflecting its historical derivation from the number word one, the English indefinite article can only be used with singular count nouns. For mass nouns, or for plurals, adjectives or adjective phrases like some or a few substitute for it. In English, pronouns, nouns already having another non-number determiner, and proper nouns usually do not use articles. Otherwise in English, unlike many other languages, singular count nouns take an article; either a, an, or the. Also in English word order, articles precede any adjectives which modify the applicable noun.
In French, the masculine definite article le (meaning the) is contracted with a following word if that word begins with a vowel sound. When the French words de and le are to be used sequentially (meaning of the), the word du is used instead, in addition to the above mentioned use of du as a partitive article.
In various languages other than English, masculine and feminine forms of articles differ. Singular and plural forms of articles can also differ in other languages. Many languages do not use articles at all, and may use other ways of indicating old vs. new information, such as topic-comment constructions.


The word the is the only definite article of the English language. The is the most common word in the English language.
The article the is used in English as the very first part of a noun phrase. For example:
The end of time begins now.
Here "the end of time" is a noun phrase. The use of the signals that the reference is to a specific and unique instance of the concept (such as person, object, or idea) expressed in the noun phrase. Here, the implication is that there is one end of time, and that it has arrived.
The time is 3:29 PM.
There are many times, but the meaning here is the time now, of which (at the moment the sentence was produced) there is only one.


Linguists believe that the common ancestor of the Indo-European languages (i.e., the Proto-Indo-European language) did not have a definite article. Most of the languages in this family do not have definite or indefinite articles; there is no article in Latin, Sanskrit, Persian or in some modern Indo-European languages, especially in Slavic languages - Russian, Slovak and Czech, etc (the only Slavic languages that have articles are Bulgarian and Macedonian) and in the Baltic languages - Latvian, Lithuanian and Latgalian. Errors with the use of the and other determiners are common in people learning English (e.g., native Czech-speaker Ivana Trump, first wife of Donald Trump, referring to him as "the Donald"). Classical Greek has a definite article (which happens to be very similar to the definite article in German, but with t instead of German d), but Homeric Greek did not. In the etymologies of these and many other languages, the definite article arose by a demonstrative pronoun or adjective changing its usage; compare the fate of the Latin demonstrative "ille" (meaning "that") in the Romance languages, becoming French le, la, l’, and les, Spanish el, la, lo, los, and las, Italian il, la, lo, l’, i, gli, and le, and Portuguese o, os, a, and as.
The and that are common developments from the same Old English system. Old English had a definite article se, in the masculine gender, seo (feminine), and þæt (neuter). In Middle English these had all merged into þe, the ancestor of the Modern English word the.
In Middle English the (þe) was frequently abbreviated as a þ with a small e above it, similar to the abbreviation for that, which was a þ with a small t above it. During the latter Middle English and Early Modern English periods, the letter Thorn (þ) in its common script, or cursive, form came to resemble a y shape. As such the use of a y with an e above it as an abbreviation became common. This can still be seen in reprints of the 1611 edition of the King James Version of the Bible in places such as Romans 15:29, or in the Mayflower Compact. Note that the article was never pronounced with a y sound, even when so written.

Reduction and omission

The article is omitted in prepositional phrases that refer to traveling to places where a change in social behaviors is required. Hence the pattern "Mary had a little lamb. ... It followed her to school one day" (rather than "to the school") is standard, as is "I'll see you in court" (rather than "in the court"). Most English speakers say "in town" but "in the city". All English speakers say "go to college"; British speakers will also say "go to university" and "go to hospital" (for American speakers, it is "go to the hospital"). These phrases are a matter of custom rather than following clear rule. In fact, there is continuing debate over the use and semantics of NPs with articles. It is more customary to consider the article as 'not used' rather than 'omitted' in these cases, as claiming that something is 'omitted' is to make wider claims about the grammatical system that are far from easy to substantiate. The reason for not using an article is not so much that a change of behaviour is required, as claimed above, but more that the NP under the scope of the article is referred to as an institution as opposed to a particular place. "I'll see you in court" for a court case as opposed to "I'll see you in the court" because this is where we are meeting next. Also, I study "at university" (institution), but left my jacket "in the university" (location). Exceptions, as usual, seem to be the rule, as e.g. "I went to the police station" is used in both senses.
In news headlines and informal writing, such as notes or diaries, the definite article and some other particles are often omitted, for example, "Must pick up prescription at pharmacy today."
In some Northern England dialects of English, the is pronounced as [tə] (with a dental t) or as a glottal stop, usually written in eye dialect as ; in some dialects it reduces to nothing. This is known as definite article reduction; see that article for further details.
In dialects that do not have /ð/ (voiced dental fricative), the is pronounced with a voiced dental plosive, as in /d̪ə/ or /d̪iː/).

Country names

In English most countries never take the definite article, but there are many that do. It is commonly used with many country names which derive from names of island groups (the Philippines), mountain ranges (the Lebanon), deserts (the Sudan), and other geographic expressions (the Netherlands). Such use is declining, but for some countries it remains common. Since the independence of Ukraine, most style guides have advised dropping the article, in part because the Ukrainian government was concerned about a similar issue involving prepositions.


External links

the in Czech: Člen (mluvnice)
the in Danish: Artikel (grammatik)
the in German: Artikel (Wortart)
the in Spanish: Artículo (gramática)
the in Esperanto: Artikolo
the in Scottish Gaelic: Alt (gràmar)
the in Indonesian: Artikula
the in Italian: Articolo (grammatica)
the in Lithuanian: Artikelis
the in Macedonian: Член (граматика)
the in Dutch: Lidwoord
the in Japanese: 冠詞
the in Polish: Przedimek
the in Portuguese: Artigo
the in Russian: Артикль
the in Finnish: Artikkeli (kielioppi)
the in Swedish: Artikel (grammatik)
the in Yiddish: ארטיקל (גראמאטיק)
the in Chinese: 冠词
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