Grammar: Using THE with common and abstract nouns


Hi. I'm Rebecca from engVid.

Many English learners have trouble deciding when to use

"the" or no "the", so I understand that problem, I know it can be a little bit confusing, but

I believe that by the end of this lesson, you're going to find it much easier. Okay?

So let's start with a little quiz first to see where you stand regarding that word "the".

So, let's look at this first example. Should you say:

"Life is beautiful." or "The life is beautiful."?

Okay. Think about it. Decide. Another one:

"Friendship is precious." or "The friendship is precious."?

Which one is right? Think for yourself.

We'll do one more, and then I'll give you the answers.

"Happiness is important." or "The happiness is important."?

Which one is correct? Do you know? How do you know?

How do you decide which one is right? I'll tell you. When we're talking about something

which is a general concept or idea, then we do not use "the". Okay? For example, let's

take the first one. "Life is beautiful." Now, life is a general concept, so we do not need

"the". So, this is the correct answer. All right? Not this. "Life is beautiful." Because

life is a general idea, a general concept. Okay? We're not talking about anything specific.

If we say: "The life of wise people is beautiful." that is something specific, and then we would

be correct to say: "The life". Okay? But if we're just talking in general, then no "the".

Let's look at the next example. "Friendship is precious." Again, friendship is a general

idea or a general concept, so this is correct. Okay? In this example, this one was wrong.

But if I said, for example: "The friendship between those two children is precious." then

that would be fine, because now I'm specifying which friendship. Right? The friendship between

those two children, so then it becomes specific, and then we would use "the". But in this example,

this is correct. Okay? Just like this was, and this is wrong,

because this is a general idea. Okay?

Next one: "Happiness is important." By now you know, again, happiness is a general idea,

a general concept, so this is correct. In this example, it would be wrong to say:

"The happiness", because: The happiness of what? So, if we say:

"The happiness of my family is important." that's fine. That's very good. That would be a perfect sentence.

But in this case, we cannot say: "The happiness is important." because we didn't specify which happiness.

Okay? So, in this case, that's wrong, and this is correct. Okay?

Now, the same principle applies to these. See if you can figure it out. Okay?

"I want to make money." or "I want to make the money."?

Which one do you think is right? Are we speaking

in general, or are we speaking specifically? Well, we are speaking in general right now,

so this is correct, because we're just talking about money; we didn't say which money. I

want to make money. Right? General idea.

If I said, for example: "I want to make the money I need to pay my rent."

that's specific, so then I could say: "the money", because I'm

explaining after that which money. Okay? But in this example, no.

Next one: "She wants to lose weight." or "She wants to lose the weight."?

Is it general or is it specific? What do you think?

It's still general. Good. By now you're getting

really smart. "She wants to lose weight." is a general term. Right? We're just talking

about weight in general; not any specific weight.

But if I say: "She wants to lose the weight she put on during the holidays."

that's specific, and then I need "the". Okay? But not in this example.

So, last one here: "He needs to earn respect." or do we say: "He needs to earn the respect."?

Is it general or is it specific? By now you know, you'll really know. It's general. Very

good. Okay? Because we didn't talk about any specific respect; we're talking about respect

in general. So: "He needs to earn respect." But if this was being used, it would be something

like: "He needs to earn the respect of his peers." Peers are people your age. Okay? Or:

"He needs to earn the respect of his employees." for example, or "of his parents". Then it

becomes specific. Which respect? The respect of his parents, the respect of his employees.

All right?

So, if it was specific, then we could say "the", but when we're just talking in general,

we don't need "the". "Life is beautiful.", "Friendship is precious.", "Happiness is important.",

"I want to make money.", "She wants to lose weight.", "He needs to earn respect." All

of these were general concepts, so we didn't need to say "the". Next you'll have a chance

to practice this with a few more examples.

So, number one, I'll read it for you, you decide which one it should be. Okay?

"I want to feel joy I felt on our first date."

or "I want to feel the joy I felt on our first date."?

Which do you think is right: "joy" or "the joy"?

I hope you said this one. Okay?

Because in this case, it's specific. Right? Which joy? The joy I felt on our first date.

Not just joy in general. Okay? So that was correct. I'm sure you got it right.

Next one: "Cooperation is essential." or "The cooperation is essential."?

Which one do you think is right there?

Okay, I hope you said this one,

because in this case, it's general.

Right? We're just talking about cooperation as a general idea; not specific. Very good.

You're getting better.

Okay, next one: "Silence is golden." or "The silence is golden."?

In this case, as a general concept, if you were speaking in general,

then this is correct. Okay? It could also

be in this particular case-a little bit tricky-if we're talking about the silence as in the

silence around us just now and if it was specific, then maybe you could say "the silence". But

if we're speaking in general, and we say: "Silence is golden." Okay? Maybe somebody's

talking too much. Okay.

Next: "She wants to experience success of becoming a manager."

or "She wants to experience the success of becoming a manager."?

Which one? Okay? Now I'm sure you said this one,

because this is very specific. Right? We're not just talking about success in general;

we're talking about the specific success of becoming a manager,

so the answer was "the success".

"She wants to experience the success of becoming a manager." Good.

Next one: "Laughter of children is magical." or "The laughter of children is magical."?

Which one is it? Which one? Is it general or is it specific? Which laughter? Do I specify

that? Yes. So, the answer is this; this is wrong, because it's the laughter of children,

so it's very specific. Okay? So, that's how you know.

So, remember when we're talking about items like that, it's basically if it's a general

concept or idea, don't use "the"; and if it's specific, then you can use "the", and that

will erase a lot of your current mistakes. Okay? If you want to really master this,

go to our website:, and you can do a quiz on this so you can get really good at it.

And you can also subscribe to my channel, because I'll give you lots of other tricks

and shortcuts to learn English really fast.

Good for you. Thanks for watching.