- 1 What is the definite article? (with examples)
- 2 More about the Definite Article
- 3 Why Should I Care about Definite Articles?
- 4 (Issue 1) Writing a job title or an office name with a capital letter.
- 5 (Issue 2) Capitalizing the“The“that starts a name (e.g., The Beatles).
- 6 Key Points
What is the definite article? (with examples)
The definite article is the word“the“. It is used before a noun to define it as something specific (for example, something previously mentioned or known, something unique, or something identified by the speaker).
- I’m the pirate.
(This means a specific pirate, i.e., the one previously discussed.)
- Can we go to the park?
(The park is specific. It is known to the speaker and the listener.)
El artículo definido contrasta con el artículo indefinido (“and“o“a“), which defines something as nonspecific (for example, something generic or something mentioned for the first time).
- I’m a pirate.
(This means an unspecified pirate, i.e., not one previously discussed.)
- Can we go to a park?
(The park is unspecific. The speaker doesn’t care which one.)
More about the Definite Article
Articles are classified as determiners. A determiner sits before a noun to indicate quantity, possession, specificity, or definition.
There are only two types of articles in English:
- The Definite Article (“the“)
- The Indefinite Article (“a“and“an“).
Here’s an example with one of each:
- I have found a solution to the problem.
(The solution is not yet known by the listener. The problem is known to the speaker and the listener.)
De interés,“the“It is the most used word in English. In many Slavic languages (for example, Russian, Serbo-Croatian), the word“the“does not exist at all. That’s how it is. The Russians don’t have a word for“the“(o“a“for that matter)!
Why Should I Care about Definite Articles?
There are two commonly discussed topics related to definite articles.
(Issue 1) Writing a job title or an office name with a capital letter.
Un título de trabajo (por ejemplo,“president“,“judge“,“director“) or the name of the office (“parliament“,“tribunal“,“accounts section“) is capitalized when referring to a specific person or office (that is, when it is a proper noun). So when the definite article (that is,“the“) appears before such a title or name, you will most likely need a capital letter.
Here’s the guideline: If the job title or office name is used for its dictionary definition (ie, as a common noun), then don’t use a capital letter. However, if the job title or office name relates you to a specific person or office (ie, used as a proper noun), then use a capital letter.
- The King was a king among kings. ✔️
(Here,“The King“specifies an individual, but“king“and“kings“do not. They are just the dictionary definitions of the word king. In other words, the first one is a proper noun, but the other two are common nouns.)
- She works in one of the finance offices, in the Accounts Section, I think. ✔️
(The term“finance offices“is a common noun, but“Accounts Section“is a proper noun.)
(Issue 2) Capitalizing the“The“that starts a name (e.g., The Beatles).
Some names (particularly band names) begin with“The“(for instance,“The Beatles“,“The Rolling Stones“,“The Sex Pistols“). When such names appear in continuous text, you have the option of typing“The“(with a capital letter) or“the“. Since there is no consensus among the major style guides on this point, you can go with your preference. Remember that we are talking about a name in the continuous text. In a formal list of names or a reference, you would have to use“The“.
It is helpful to think of an opening“The“like it’s loosely tied to his name because there will be times when you should just drop it.
- Did you download the Bastille album?
(The group is called“Bastille.“)
- Did you download the The Clash album?
(The group is called“The Clash.“Logically, this would be correct, but no one would write or say it because it’s far too unwieldy.)
- Did you download the Clash album?
(This is the most acceptable version, but we’ve lost the“The.“)
It is worth noting that this issue could affect you with foreign names with an opening“The“.
- Gina Vitale: It’s called“The La Trattoria“.
Michael Felgate:“The La Trattoria“means The The Trattoria.
Gina Vitale: I know.
(An extract from the 1999 Hugh Grant film Mickey Blue Eyes)
With a bit more clarity of thought, the owner of“The La Trattoria“would probably have registered it as“The restaurant“.
- Does it disturb anyone else that“The Los Angeles Angels“baseball team translates directly as“The The Angels Angels“? (Unknown)
- A job title (e.g.,“president“) or a job title (e.g.,“Parliament“) is capitalized when it specifies a single person or position (that is, it is not just the dictionary definition of that word). When such a name refers specifically to a single person or office, it is most likely preceded by“the“.
- When a name starts with“The“(for instance,“The WHO“), you can type“the WHO“o“The WHO“however you think looks best (when in flowing text).