- used preceding a noun that has been previously specified: the pain should disappear soon, the man then opened the door
- used with a qualifying word or phrase to indicate a particular person, object, etc, as distinct from others: ask the man standing outside, give me the blue one
- used preceding certain nouns associated with one's culture, society, or community: to go to the doctor, listen to the news, watch the television
- used preceding present participles and adjectives when they function as nouns: the singing is awful, the dead salute you
- used preceding titles and certain uniquely specific or proper nouns, such as place names: the United States, the Honourable Edward Brown, the Chairman, the moon
- used preceding a qualifying adjective or noun in certain names or titles: William the Conqueror, Edward the First
- used preceding a noun to make it refer to its class generically: the white seal is hunted for its fur, this is good for the throat, to play the piano
- used instead of my, your, her, etc, with parts of the body: take me by the hand
- (usually stressed) the best, only, or most remarkable: Harry's is the club in this town
- used with proper nouns when qualified: written by the young Hardy
- another word for per, esp with nouns or noun phrases of cost: fifty pence the pound
- often facetious or derogatory my; our: the wife goes out on Thursdays
- used preceding a unit of time in phrases or titles indicating an outstanding person, event, etc: match of the day, player of the year
WordReference Random House Learner's Dictionary of American English © 2020
- (used before a noun or something functioning as a noun, when the noun is known to the speaker and to the listener, or when it is about to be made known by having a clause that specifies it or makes it definite):Please close the window (= There is a window in the room that you and I both know about, and it is open). Here is the book you gave me (= Here is a book, and now you know which one I mean). Come on into the house for a drink (= We are standing near a house and we both know which house I am referring to.) She got a new computer and a printer. The printer is great, but the computer doesn't work (= After introducing a computer and printer, the speaker then refers to them with the because now they are both known to or established in the mind of the listener).
- (used before certain place names, some of which end in -s where the -s marks a plural);
or where the place name is short for a longer name;
and before certain others that are well known or unique):the Alps;the Mississippi (= short for the Mississippi River);the Bronx (= a borough of New York City).
- (used before certain nouns thought of as unique and well known to the speaker and the listener):The sun (moon) went behind a cloud (= There is only one sun or moon). How is the weather today?
- (used with or as part of a title):the Duke of Wellington.
- (used to mark a noun as the best known, most approved, etc., of its kind):Butternut Mountain was considered the place to ski.
- (used before a count noun to mark the noun in a generic meaning, to include all such examples of it):The dog is a four-legged animal (= All dogs are four-legged). The tiger is a ferocious animal (= All tigers are ferocious).
- (used in place of a possessive pronoun, to note a part of the body or a personal belonging):He was shot in the arm.
- (used before nouns referring to musical instruments, even when speaking about them generally):She plays the violin. He plays the piano.
- (used before certain adjectives to stand for a class or number of individuals, or for an abstract idea:to visit the sick (= to visit sick people), from the sublime to the ridiculous (= from a situation or things that are sublime to a situation or things that are ridiculous). The poor need our help (= Poor people need our help).
- (used to indicate a decade of a lifetime or of a century):the sixties.
- enough:She didn't have the courage to leave.
the2 /before a consonant ðə before a vowel ði/USA pronunciation
- (used to modify an adjective or adverb that means or has the meaning "more'') on that account or in some or any degree:He's been on vacation and looks the better for it.
- (used before an adjective or adverb that means or has the meaning "most''):She is the tallest girl in her class.
unstressed before a vowel ᵺē),USA pronunciation definite article.
- (used, esp. before a noun, with a specifying or particularizing effect, as opposed to the indefinite or generalizing force of the indefinite article a or an):the book you gave me; Come into the house.
- (used to mark a proper noun, natural phenomenon, ship, building, time, point of the compass, branch of endeavor, or field of study as something well-known or unique):the sun;
the past; the West.
- (used with or as part of a title):the Duke of Wellington; the Reverend John Smith.
- (used to mark a noun as indicating the best-known, most approved, most important, most satisfying, etc.):the skiing center of the U.S.; If you're going to work hard, now is the time.
- (used to mark a noun as being used generically):The dog is a quadruped.
- (used in place of a possessive pronoun, to note a part of the body or a personal belonging):He won't be able to play football until the leg mends.
- (used before adjectives that are used substantively, to note an individual, a class or number of individuals, or an abstract idea):to visit the sick; from the sublime to the ridiculous.
- (used before a modifying adjective to specify or limit its modifying effect):He took the wrong road and drove miles out of his way.
- (used to indicate one particular decade of a lifetime or of a century):the sixties; the gay nineties.
- (one of many of a class or type, as of a manufactured item, as opposed to an individual one):Did you listen to the radio last night?
- enough:He saved until he had the money for a new car. She didn't have the courage to leave.
- (used distributively, to note any one separately) for, to, or in each;
a or an:at one dollar the pound.
- Middle English, Old English, uninflected stem of the demonstrative pronoun. See that bef. 900
- As shown above, the pronunciation of the definite article the changes, primarily depending on whether the following sound is a consonant or a vowel. Before a consonant sound the pronunciation is
(stressed ᵺē; unstressed before a consonant ᵺə;
unstressed before a vowel ᵺē),USA pronunciation : the book, the mountain (stressed ᵺē; unstressed before a consonant ᵺə;
unstressed before a vowel ᵺē),USA pronunciation Before a vowel sound it is usually (stressed ᵺē; unstressed before a consonant ᵺə;
unstressed before a vowel ᵺē),USA pronunciation sometimes (stressed ᵺē; unstressed before a consonant ᵺə;
unstressed before a vowel ᵺē),USA pronunciation : the apple, the end (stressed ᵺē; unstressed before a consonant ᵺə;
unstressed before a vowel ᵺē),USA pronunciation As an emphatic form ("I didn't say a book--I said the book.'') or a citation form ("The word the is a definite article.''), the usual pronunciation is (stressed ᵺē; unstressed before a consonant ᵺə;
unstressed before a vowel ᵺē),USA pronunciation although in both of these uses of the stressed form, (stressed ᵺē; unstressed before a consonant ᵺə;
unstressed before a vowel ᵺē),USA pronunciation is often replaced by (stressed ᵺē; unstressed before a consonant ᵺə;
unstressed before a vowel ᵺē),USA pronunciation especially among younger speakers.
the2 (before a consonant ᵺə; before a vowel ᵺē),USA pronunciation adv.
- (used to modify an adjective or adverb in the comparative degree and to signify "in or by that,'' "on that account,'' "in or by so much,'' or "in some or any degree''):He's been on vacation and looks the better for it.
- (used in correlative constructions to modify an adjective or adverb in the comparative degree, in one instance with relative force and in the other with demonstrative force, and signifying "by how much … by so much'' or "in what degree … in that degree''):the more the merrier; The bigger they are, the harder they fall.
- bef. 900; Middle English; Old English thē, thȳ, instrumental case of demonstrative pronoun. See that, lest
- Greek, combining form of theós
- (often followed by for) used before comparative adjectives or adverbs for emphasis: she looks the happier for her trip
- used correlatively before each of two comparative adjectives or adverbs to indicate equality: the sooner you come, the better, the more I see you, the more I love you