Grammar Essentials
Writing
Grammar essentials: The Definite Article

Did you know that 'the' is the most common word in English? It's also a word that many learners find very hard to use. Grammatical accuracy is important in IELTS so if you can use 'the' correctly, you will be one step closer to a high band score.    Listening Practice: Listen to Emma read grammar essentials: The Definite Article     Today, let’s go through when you do use 'the' and when you don't. We’ll then have a go at some activities to help you put your knowledge to the test.    We use the …   … with superlatives Google is the most popular search engine in the world.  Climate change is the biggest problem we have. … with singular and plural countable nouns when we know which ones All of the animals at London zoo are cared for by zookeepers.  Have you finished the book I gave you?  The children in my class are all very nice.  … with uncountable nouns We can use the before uncountable nouns when they refer to a specific example: The weather was awful last summer. After you add the flour you can add the milk (from the recipe). … with inventions, musical instruments and cultural institutions The computer must be the greatest invention ever.  The violin sounds different to the viola. When did you last go to the theatre? … before abstract nouns  When we describe a situation, a quality, a change using an abstract noun followed by of something we can use ‘the’:  There is a problem with the availability of clean water in some villages.  The distribution of income is uneven in many countries.  … with things that are universally known We use the with things known to everyone because they are a part of our physical environment or part of the natural world: The earth moves around the sun. We lay on the grass outside our tent and watched the stars. … with everyday things We use the with things that we know as part of our daily lives. The does not refer to particular things in this context. I don’t buy the newspaper these days.  I take the train not the bus to get to work. … when there is only one of something The Government should introduce a fine for anyone caught polluting rivers. During the sixties there was a lot of civil unrest. …with groups within society When we talk about particular groups or people within society, we use the + adjective: The very young and the elderly need to be cared for. … with dates When we say a specific date, we use the, but when we write it, we don’t use the: Speaking: ‘My birthday is the 7th of October.’ Writing: My birthday is on 7th October.   We DON’T use the…   … to talk about things in general, we use a plural instead We have to protect wild animals.  … when we refer in general to something abstract or uncountable Food is essential for survival. … with a single country or place The components are made in China and then exported to France.   As you continue preparing for IELTS try to notice every time you see the definite article in a text and why it’s there.  Now you have an idea of when you do and do not use the definite article put your knowledge to the test. Have a go at these activities from Common Mistakes at IELTS Intermediate or Advanced level.   Intermediate Language activity:  Download our activity worksheet to practice the definitive article.    Worksheet download               Once you have completed the worksheet, download the answer sheet to see how well you’ve done.    Answer sheet download   Advanced Language activity:  Download our activity worksheet to practice the definitive article.    Worksheet download        Once you have completed the worksheet, download the answer sheet to see how well you’ve done.    Answer sheet download   Emma

Emma Cosgrave

14 April, 2020

Grammar essentials: The Definite Article

Grammar Essentials

Did you know that 'the' is the most common word in English? It's also a word that many learners find very hard to use. Grammatical accuracy is important in IELTS so if you can use 'the' correctly, you will be one step closer to a high band score.

 

Listening Icon Listening Practice: Listen to Emma read grammar essentials: The Definite Article

 

 

Today, let’s go through when you do use 'the' and when you don't. We’ll then have a go at some activities to help you put your knowledge to the test. 
 

We use the …

 

… with superlatives

  • Google is the most popular search engine in the world. 
  • Climate change is the biggest problem we have.

… with singular and plural countable nouns when we know which ones

  • All of the animals at London zoo are cared for by zookeepers. 
  • Have you finished the book I gave you
  • The children in my class are all very nice. 

… with uncountable nouns

  • We can use the before uncountable nouns when they refer to a specific example:
  • The weather was awful last summer.
  • After you add the flour you can add the milk (from the recipe).

with inventions, musical instruments and cultural institutions

  • The computer must be the greatest invention ever. 
  • The violin sounds different to the viola.
  • When did you last go to the theatre?

before abstract nouns 

When we describe a situation, a quality, a change using an abstract noun followed by of something we can use ‘the’: 

  • There is a problem with the availability of clean water in some villages. 
  • The distribution of income is uneven in many countries. 

with things that are universally known

We use the with things known to everyone because they are a part of our physical environment or part of the natural world:

  • The earth moves around the sun.
  • We lay on the grass outside our tent and watched the stars.

with everyday things

We use the with things that we know as part of our daily lives. The does not refer to particular things in this context.

  • I don’t buy the newspaper these days. 
  • I take the train not the bus to get to work.

… when there is only one of something

  • The Government should introduce a fine for anyone caught polluting rivers.
  • During the sixties there was a lot of civil unrest.

with groups within society

  • When we talk about particular groups or people within society, we use the + adjective:
  • The very young and the elderly need to be cared for.

with dates

When we say a specific date, we use the, but when we write it, we don’t use the:

  • Speaking: ‘My birthday is the 7th of October.’
  • Writing: My birthday is on 7th October.

 

We DON’T use the…

 

… to talk about things in general, we use a plural instead

  • We have to protect wild animals. 

… when we refer in general to something abstract or uncountable

  • Food is essential for survival.

… with a single country or place

  • The components are made in China and then exported to France.

 

As you continue preparing for IELTS try to notice every time you see the definite article in a text and why it’s there. 

Now you have an idea of when you do and do not use the definite article put your knowledge to the test. Have a go at these activities from Common Mistakes at IELTS Intermediate or Advanced level.

 

Intermediate Language activity: 

Download our activity worksheet to practice the definitive article. 

 

Download Worksheet

Worksheet download              

Once you have completed the worksheet, download the answer sheet to see how well you’ve done. 

 

Answer Sheet

Answer sheet download

 

Advanced Language activity: 

Download our activity worksheet to practice the definitive article. 

 

Download Worksheet

Worksheet download       

Once you have completed the worksheet, download the answer sheet to see how well you’ve done. 

 

Answer Sheet

Answer sheet download

 

Emma

Grammar for IELTS used by Emma

Emma Cosgrave

Emma has been teaching IELTS for 20 years. She enjoys helping people to develop both their language skills and confidence.

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