The article the is a determiner in a sentence when placed before a noun or a noun phrase. It is called a definite article as it points to a particular person or thing being mentioned in the sentence. It can be used before a singular or a plural noun, and before a countable and an uncountable noun.

We use the determiner the:

to refer to people or things which we know because they have already been mentioned.

Examples:

  • 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.

Examples:

  • 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 firstonly, etc.

Examples:

  • Peacocks have the most beautiful feathers.
  • The first 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. 

Examples:

  • 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.

Examples:

  • 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.

Examples:

  • The Robinsons are the latest members of the ghost-hunting club.
  • The Niagara Falls is the largest waterfall in the world.