John’s English Blog

I’m John, an English language teacher. Welcome to my blog.

Definite and indefinite articles

Articles, using "the", some interesting cases.


This is the ninth in a series of blog posts about articles. I recommend you read the previous blog posts in this series before you read this one. In the previous article we looked at making generalizations. In this blog post we’ll look at some interesting cases using the.

limited generalizations

When a generalization is limited the use of the depends on the form. When the noun is followed by a limiting phrase then we use the.

  • I love fashion.
  • I love 1960s fashion.
  • I love the fashion of the 1960s.
  • Lions live in groups called prides.
  • Serengeti lions live in groups called prides.
  • The lions of the Serengeti live in groups called prides.
  • In the time of Shakespeare female roles were played by male actors.
  • In Shakespeare’s time female roles were played by male actors.
  • During rationing public health improves.
  • During Word War II rationing public health improved.
  • During the rationing of World War II public health improved.

everyday things

Sometimes we use the to mean an experience or habit that you know rather than a specific object that you know. Eg the experience of taking the train.

  • I like to do sudoku puzzles on the train.
  • Are you going to take the underground?
  • We all go to the pub every Friday after work.
  • Do you sing in the shower?
  • Some people just lie on the beach when they go on holiday.

similar options

We can use the to refer to one of a number of similar options when it doesn’t matter which one we are talking about.

  • “The only one who could ever reach me was the son of a preacher man.” Dusty Springfield
  • Is this the right example?
  • He’s not always like this; he got out of the wrong side of his bed this morning.
  • “he sat on the bank, while the river chattered on to him” The Wind in the Willows.
  • It must be true; it was written on the side of a bus.
  • I saw the parade from the window.
  • “I took him by the hand,” To kill a Mockingbird.
  • She greeted her mother with a kiss on the cheek.
  • The bird sat on the branch of a tree.


Back to the article

  • When I got to the station I had no ticket, no wallet, no mobile and no keys, because I was wearing the wrong trousers.
  • Have you seen any of Shakespeare’s plays?
  • He tapped him on the shoulder.
  • “a mist arose off a bank of grey boulders” Tarka the Otter.
  • Reading in the bath is very relaxing.
  • What’s that in the sky? Is it a plane?
  • For Sunday lunch they had a shoulder of lamb.
  • “Alice was beginning to get very tired of sitting by her sister on the bank” Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.
  • Can you name the plays of Shakespeare?
  • Is there a cinema near here?
  • In summer I wear shorts and in winter I wear trousers.
  • Charles I was executed in the 1640s.
  • We go to the cinema once a month.
  • 1940s cinema produced my favourite film, Kind Hearts and Coronets.
  • No one likes the middle seat on the plane.
  • After cycling I like to have a shower.

I hope you enjoyed this blog post. If you have any comments, questions or corrections please write them below.

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