Grammar: 8 rules for using 'THE' in English


Hi, everyone. I'm Jade. In this lesson today, we're looking at the rules for articles, but

more specifically, the rules where we have exceptions in using articles. So when I'm

observing people's English, all the time I'm hearing the same mistakes with articles. So

what you will learn to do in this lesson is how to avoid those really, really common mistakes

I hear all the time.

If you're somebody who just doesn't use articles at all because in your native language, you

don't have articles, I understand it can be really, really hard to start using them. But

they are an important aspect of grammar, and you should be using them. So if you watch

this lesson, you'll get some tips for using articles, where you need them, and where you

shouldn't use them. And also, if you're someone who's getting articles right nearly all the

time, I'm quite sure that you will pick up one or two rules here that you didn't know

before. So let's get started.

There are eight different rules. Rule No. 1: When we're talking about countries, most

countries we don't use an article. So here some sentences. "She lives in England. They

live in America." We don't use articles. But if the country's considered to be a nation

state, a collection of different states, or a collection of different countries in one

bigger state, then we use articles. Here are examples. So "the U.S.A., the U.K., the U.A.E."

-- where I spend a lot of my time -- and here are -- also, we need to mention islands. When

a country is a group of islands, we always use articles. So we would say "the Virgin

Islands", and we'd say "the Philippines" as well.

It's interesting that we can say, "She lives in England" because England is one country,

but when talking about the same -- okay, it's not exactly the same place, the U.K., because

it's -- the U.K. is more than one country. It's more than just England. But sometimes

people think of it as being the same place. It's not. When we're talking about the U.K.,

we need an article, but just for "England", it's okay not to use an article.

Let's take a look at rule No. 2. Rule No. 2 -- this is a really subtle rule, here. And

this one I always correct in sentences. When people talk about meals -- breakfast, lunch,

dinner, also brunch is a meal you might not know. It's in between breakfast and lunch.

-- we don't use articles. So here's a correct sentence. "I don't eat breakfast." I'm talking

in general there. "I don't eat breakfast." That's okay to say. However, if I'm being

specific, "We didn't like the dinner", it's okay to use an article here. You need to.

So what does the sentence actually mean? Imagine that we were out last night, and we had a

meal. And now, we're talking about it. "Well, the place was nice, but I didn't like the

dinner." Being specific about that experience we had. If I'm talking in general, "I don't

like dinner", that would just mean all the time, okay? So it's a very big difference

in meaning.

Now, we'll look at rule No. 3 for jobs. Jobs take the indefinite article. That's a grammar

word. And "indefinite article" means "a". We don't use "the". Here's our example. "I

want to be a politician." I actually really don't want to be a politician, but maybe some

of you watching this do. If you want to be a politician, you should really study English

really hard. It's very important.

Let's have a look at the next rules. No. 4 -- do you know this English language board

game called "Scrabble"? In this board game, you get points for spelling words. And if

you can spell a long word, that's better, usually. It depends. But sometimes, you'll

have a long word that everybody knows, but actually, you can't get any points for it

in Scrabble because it's a proper noun. And that basically means a noun that takes a capital

letter. So it could be a word that everybody knows like "June, August, Friday" or a place

name like "London". And you don't get any points for that in Scrabble. Also, how it

relates to this lesson is when we're using proper nouns, we don't use "the". We don't

use the definite article. But we can use prepositions. So "See you on Monday" or "He is in London."

It's okay with proper nouns, but not the definite article.

Rule No. 5: When we're talking about languages, we don't use articles there either. So we

can say, "He speaks English." That's a perfectly good sentence.

And rule No. 6, okay. When there's only one of something, then we use "the". So what things

are there only one of something? Well, if you look up in the sky, and it's night. There's

only one moon. And there's only one sun in our solar system. So when we're using the

moon and the sun, we always use "the" with it. And maybe this one is a confusion sometimes

because in your language, maybe "moon" and "sun" are names, so you think they don't use

an article. Well, anyway, in English, they do take an article, so it's really important

that you don't forget to use "the". And -- oh, yes. Here's another one that there's only

one of something in the world. The Internet, okay? There's just one Internet. There are

all these different computers and devices connected to it, but there's just one Internet.

So we use "the" with "Internet".

When we come back, we're just going to look at the final rules using articles, the ones

that people get wrong all the time.

Okay, let's take a look at the last two rules for articles. No. 7 is uncountable nouns.

What are uncountable nouns? These are nouns that we don't add S to, and we find them most

of the time when we're talking about food. For example, "bread". Usually we don't put

a plural with "bread" or "pasta" or "rice". These kinds of things are uncountable nouns.

So usually, we're not going to use "the" with them if you're talking in general. If you

say, "I like bread", we're talking in general, just as a statement. But if you say, "I like

the bread", we're talking about something in the room with us, something we can see,

something at the table with us now, some specific bread.

Rule No. 8 is very similar: abstract nouns. Again, these don't take a plural. What abstract

nouns are is they represent concepts, not real things that we can touch in the world.

They're ideas, concepts. So "information" is an abstract noun, and "freedom" is an abstract

noun". And when do we use an article with these; when don't we use an article? Let's

have a look. "The information was helpful." Here, we're being specific. I'm maybe talking

about something I'm holding in my hands. Whereas, "Freedom is worth dying for" -- there is no

article here because that's a general grand statement about freedom. And if we put abstract

nouns at the beginning of sentences, usually we don't want an article there because we're

talking in general.

So there are my eight irregular rules for articles. If you apply these, that will help

take your English to a higher level because many of these rules people miss out and not

using articles where they need to be, or the other way around. So if you want to take this

a little bit further, you can go to the website, and you can do the quiz on the website. Also,

if you like this video, you can subscribe. Subscribe here on my engVid channel. And also,

on my other YouTube channel where I've got more than 200 videos to help you learn English,

as well. So yes. I'm finished now. And I hope you come back soon for more English with me.