English The Definite Article
Learn when and how to use the definite article "the" for singular and plural nouns.
In English, the definite article, “the,” is used when referring to a person or thing previously mentioned or specifically known from before. For example:
I like the cake you made.
In this example, “the cake” is something that was already made and the speaker and addressee (the maker of the cake) already have mentioned. Another example is:
Did you see the weather report for today?
In the above question, “the” is understood to refer to a local weather report and it does not even need to have been mentioned in an earlier conversation.
“The” can be used for both singular and plural nouns, countable and non-countable alike. It is also used before a group, class, nationality, or a species:
The Chinese are making big strides in technological progress.
The dolphin is known for its intelligence.
The definite article also precedes proper nouns that are geographical features (i.e. mountains, rivers, oceans): the Rocky Mountains, the Nile, the Atlantic (Ocean). Other proper nouns (not specific people) that take “the” include places and things such as the Museum of Metropolitan Art (MOMA), the Washington Monument, the L.A. Times, and the Golden Gate Bridge.
One exception to the rule about people and proper names is when differentiating between two people with identical names. For example, you might know someone named George Clooney (not the famous actor), and mentioning this to someone might elicit the response:
You know the George Clooney?! -No, he is not the famous George Clooney you are thinking of.
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Common European Framework of Reference for Languages
The CEFR is an international standard used to describe language ability. Here are specific details of the CEFR for this topic.