Definite and indefinite articles: the, a, an
The definite article the as a determiner can be used before singular or plural nouns such as people or things, and before countable and uncountable nouns.
We use the determiner the:
to refer to people or things which we know because they have already been mentioned.
- There is a man doing magic at the marketplace. I know the man; he is my uncle.
- I know there are bats in that cave. I have been to the cave and seen the bats.
to refer to a person or thing when there is only one.
- He is the ex-husband of my friend’s sister.
- The flood occurred only in the east coast of the country.
before superlatives, words such as first, only, etc.
- Peacocks have themost beautiful feathers.
- Thefirst runner to cross the line will be declared the winner.
- This duckling is the only pet I have.
before adjectives so that the adjectives become nouns.
- Sometimes I hate myself for dreaming the impossible.
- They buried the dead as soon as they could.
before a singular noun that is representative of a group of similar people or things.
- A large and flightless bird, the dodo is now extinct.
- The satellite has many uses, the most important of which is the transmission of information.
before proper nouns.
- The Robinsons are the latest members of the ghost-hunting club.
- The Niagara Falls is the largest waterfall in the world.
We use the determiners a/an:
to refer to someone or things that we know nothing about as they have not been mentioned before, or they are not particular persons or things.
- She brought home a puppy.
- They saw a man attempting to commit burglary at a house near by.
- There was anexplosion in a nearby factory.
before an uncountable noun.
- The husband and wife share a liking for raw fish.
- He has an unusually bad temper.
before an action noun.
- She had a quick glance at me, and then looked away.
- She always has abath that lasts at least an hour.
before a quantity.
- He uttered a few foreign words before he passed away.
- She never does a bit of exercise to reduce her enormous body weight.
before a proper noun such as a person’s name.
- A Mr. Wilson called while you were away.
- Is there a Patterson here?