Definite Article The

Definite Article The
Names: People

We DO NOT use the definite article the when referring to people by name:

  • Daniel Craig, also known as James Bond, is married to Rachel Weisz.
  • Romeo and Juliet was written by Shakespeare.
  • Daniel Day Lewis was outstanding in the movie Lincoln.

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When we use somebody’s title with their name, we DO NOT use ‘the’.

When we use somebody’s title without their name, we DO use ‘the’.

  • If there is an emergency, you need to call Doctor Johnson.
  • The doctor is always available, twenty four hours a day.
  • Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh, is the husband of Queen Elizabeth II.
  • The Queen stood next to the Prince and waved to the crowd.


We DO use ‘the’ when referring to families, or people in the plural:

  • The Obamas live in the White House.
  • The Browns moved to London last year.
  • Have you anything heard from the Smiths lately. 


We DO use the definite article the when referring to people from a particular country as a whole: the Spanish, the British, the French, the Irish, the Dutch, the Finnish, the Swiss, the Vietnamese

  • The British are very good at queueing.
  • The Irish like to dance.

We generally DO NOT use ‘the’ with nationalities ending in ‘s: Americans, Canadians, Russians, Australians, Danes, South Africans, Jamaicans, Mexicans

  • Americans speak English differently to the British.
  • South Africans are very tall, similar to the Dutch.

NOTE: The Americans were drinking Coke.(that particular group of Americans)

So GENERALLY we can say:

Ø people’s names
Ø people’s names with titles
THE title with no names
THE people in the plural (families and nationalities, except where the nationality ends in an ‘s’)

Definite Article The
Names: Places

We DO NOT use the definite article the when referring to places by name:

  • Warsaw is the capital of Poland.
  • Ethiopia is in Africa.
  • Lake Ontario forms the border between Canada and America.

Plural Names

We DO use the definite article the for countries whose names are in the plural, and for countries which include words like  States, Kingdom, Islands or Republic.

the Netherlands, the Philippines, the Bahamas, the Maldives, the Republic of Ireland, the United Kingdom, the United States, the Canary Islands, the Isle of Skye, the Isle of White, the Central African Republic, the Czech Republic

Geographical Features

We DO use the definite article the with mountain ranges, rivers, seas, oceans and canals:

the Himalayas, the Alps, the Pyrenees, the Canaries, the Atlantic, the Atlantic Ocean, the Pacific, the Amazon, the Thames, the Panama Canal, the Suez Canal

We DO NOT use the definite article the with single mountains or lakes:

Mount Everest, Mount Kilimanjaro, Lake Michigan, Lake Como


We DO use ‘the’ with well known buildings, including museums, memorials, galleries, hotels, restaurants and pubs: the Louvre, the Empire State Building, the Holocaust Memorial, the British Museum, the White House, the Tate Gallery, the Hilton Hotel, the Best Restaurant, the Whiteheart Pub

We DO use ‘the with buildings that have names ……of…….: the Houses of Parliament, the Great Wall of China, the Bank of England, the Tower of London, the Museum of Modern Art

We DO NOT use ‘the’ with streets, roads, squares, bridges and parks: Times Square, Piccadilly Circus, Central Park, Hyde Park, Waterloo Bridge,  Fifth Avenue, Main Road, Russell Square

We DO NOT usually use ‘the’ with places, when the first word is someone’s name: Edinburgh Castle, Westminster Abbey, Canterbury Cathedral, Buckingham Palace, Cambridge University, Victoria Station

These are only general rules, and there are exceptions – unfortunately!

So GENERALLY we could say:

THE buildings
Ø open spaces and outside things
Ø buildings with someone’s name

Definite Article The
Names: Organisations


We DO NOT use ‘the’ when talking about companies: Skoda, Volkswagen, British Airways, Chatham Financial, IBM, Canon, Nikon, CNN, Sky, Virgin, Walmart

  • On our last holiday we flew with British Airways.
  • Chatham Financial are an excellent company to work for.

Newspapers & Magazines

We DO use ‘the’ with newspapers: the New York Herald, the Telegraph, the Daily Post, the Sunday Times

  • Have you seen that ridiculous article in the Sunday Times?
  • I couldn’t buy the Telegraph today, they were all sold out.

We DO NOT use ‘the’ when talking about magazines: Vogue, Time, Golfing Weekly, Food Ideas, Home, Glamour, Weddings, Traveller

  • Time is a weekly American magazine.
  • Have you seen this week’s copy of Traveller?


We DO use ‘the’ when talking about organizations: The United Nations, the Red Cross, the European Union, the European Economic Community

  • The Red Cross helps people in crisis.
  • The United Nations was founded in 1945.

Definite Article The

Exercise 1

Get the students to fill in the gaps with a, an, the or Ø:

(1) _______Prince Harry, who has now completed a 20-week deployment in Helmand province, insisted he and his brother were “not special” and said (2) _______Duke of Cambridge is envious of his tour of duty. Speaking alongside an Apache attack helicopter at Camp Bastion, (3) _____ 28-year-old co-pilot gunner said there was no reason why members of (4) ________ Royal family should not be “shot at” if troops on the ground are facing the same dangers while taking on (5) ______ Taliban.

(6)______Duke, 30, who is (7) _______future Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces, is (8) ________ RAF Flight Lieutenant and works as (9) ________ Search and Rescue Force pilot on Sea King helicopters based at RAF Valley on Anglesey. But the second in line to the throne has never seen active service because it is considered too dangerous. (10) _______Prince Harry believes his brother could fly Chinook helicopters with emergency medical crews on board to pick up casualties.

 “People back home will have issues with that, but we're not special. The guys out there are. Simple as that.”

No future monarch has seen active wartime service since (11)_______George VI, then known as (12)_______Prince Albert, who served with (13)________ Royal Navy during the First World War. His brother, (14) _______ then Prince of Wales, who later reigned briefly as (15) ________ Edward VIII, also served in the Great War, as a staff officer behind the front line at the Battle of the Somme.

Exercise 2

Get the students to make a list of all the places that they can think of in each of the following cities that they would like to visit. Decide which places need articles and which do not.


New York


Exercise 3

Choose 10 countries, and draw a table with the flag of that country, the capital city,  and 3 to 4 buildings and attractions to be found within that country. Make sure you leave out all the articles. Cut up your table, and give the students the parts to reassemble. Once they have put it all back together, they need to go through the list and decide which places need an article, and which don't.

Exercise 4

The world’s biggest selling newspapers

(1)_____ internet is said to be taking its toll on newspapers, but circulation is still healthy in highly wired countries like (2) _______ Japan and South Korea. Tokyo seems to be the newspaper capital, boasting the two most widely circulated newspapers in the world: (3) ______ Yomiuri Shimbun and Asahi Shimbun.

Tokyo has, in all, four of the 10 most widely circulated newspapers in the world. Two are published from London: (4) _______ News of the World and (5) _____Sun. One is German: (6) ______ Bild. Two are in China. And the other one is (7) _____ Times of India.

So why aren't any American newspapers on the top 10 list? It can't be because of the internet. The internet is as widely used in Britain, Japan and South Korea as in (8) _______ America.

The figures in the table below are from the US-based Mondo Newspapers, which covers newspapers around the world.

It shows 49 newspapers in the world have a circulation of more than a million.

Only two of them are American: (9) _______ Wall Street Journal and (10) ______ USA Today. Britain has four: (11) _______ News of the World, (12) _____ Sun, (13) _______ Daily Mail and (14) _______ Daily Mirror. Europe has none except (15) ______ Bild.

Japan has 13, China 12 and so does India. Three of the Indian newspapers are in English: (16) _______ Times of India, the Hindu and the Hindustan Times. (17) _______South Korea has three while Thailand and Pakistan have one each. There is none anywhere else.

(18) ______ New York Times is 53rd on the list with a circulation of more than 950,000. No other American publication is on the list of the world's 100 most widely circulated newspapers. If you look at the list, you will see there is only one from (19) ______ Middle East – (20) ______ Egyptian Al-Ahram – and none at all from Latin America, sub-Saharan Africa, Australia and the South Pacific.

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