A definite article is a grammatical article expressing definiteness. English has only one definite article; the. This is often referred to as "the definite article" and is also the commonest word in English.
Meaning[edit | edit source]
However, we sometimes say the even if we don't know, e.g. I'm going to the gym / "the library"/ "the supermarket", etc. And we sometimes drop "the" even when we know which one we're talking about; especially with 'school' and 'church'. e.g. "I'm going to school", not %"I'm going to the school".
- The may mean "the only", e.g. the moon, the government. This has definiteness because it's the only one.
- We use the with superlatives, e.g. Everest is the tallest mountain in the world. Again, we know which one.
- The can be used to mean "the well-known", e.g. Patrick Stewart, the actor.
Form[edit | edit source]
However, within a definite noun phrase the definite article is can be superseded by a dependent possessive determiner, (e.g. "the house" --> "my house"). The can also be superseded by demonstrative determiners, this, these, that and those and possessive case nouns, e.g. Fred's car.
A definite article forms part of definite noun phrase.
Pronunciation[edit | edit source]
Strong form v. weak form[edit | edit source]
The strong form of "the" is (/ði:/) and the weak form is (/ðə/). The weak form /ðə/ is commonly used before consonant sounds, rather than the strong form /ði:/. This is based on speech sounds and not spelling, so that we use /ðə/ before:
- Words beginning long U but pronounced /ju:/, e.g. the university.
- Words beginning with O but pronounced /w/, e.g. the one thing, the ouija board.
The strong form is also used when speakers want to stress the following word, we often use /ði:/, even if that following word begins with a consonant: It's the best place in town! (/ði: best/).
Elision[edit | edit source]
In rapid speech, ð may be elided to a schwa sound, particularly if merged into a previous /s/ or /z/ sound, so e.g. "What's the matter" sounds like /ˈwɒtsəˈmætə/. Also e.g. "join the army" can end up as /ˈʤɔɪniˈɑ:mi:/.
Pedagogy[edit | edit source]
The definite article is introduced at beginner level.