Definite Article


Are you interested in 10 ready made lessons about the definite article, the indefinite article and uncountable nouns with Students' and Teacher's Notes?

Already Mentioned

We use the ‘the’ when an item has already been mentioned previously:

  • We hired a car during our trip to France. The car was perfect for us.
  • I asked him if I could borrow a pencil. The pencil he gave me wasn’t sharp, so I asked if I could borrow a sharpener. The sharpener he gave me was broken.

Only One

We use ‘the’ when there is only one of something: t

he web/internet, the sun, the moon, the earth, the Queen of England, the Pope, the capital of France, the longest river, the tallest boy in the class etc

  •  You can find that out on the internet.
  • The sun, moon and earth are all in the solar system.
  • The Pope is the head of the catholic church.
  • Which is the highest mountain in Africa?

Only One in that Place

We use ‘the’ when there is only one of those things in that place and the surroundings:

  • Is it okay if I use the bath?(there is only one bath in the house)
  • We live in a small town, next to the church.(there is only one church in the town)
  • You can ask the man who’s selling popcorn.(there’s only one man selling popcorn)
  • Look at the woodpecker in that tree. (there’s only one woodpecker in the tree)

System or Service

We use ‘the’ when referring to a system or a service: 

the police, the armed forces, the army, the girl guides, the radio

  • He wants to join the police.
  • Do you have to go to  the army when you finish school?
  • Listen to the news on the radio at 8 o’clock.
  • Did you belong to the Scouts when you were young?

 Television is an exception. Note the difference….

  • I was watching television last night. (the service)
  • I was watching the television. (the television set)

Adjectives to describe Groups

We use the definite article ‘the’ when using adjectives to discuss a people group: 

the poor, the rich, the elderly, the unemployed, the disabled, the homeless

  •  The rich should help the poor.
  • Cold winters can be particularly hard on the homeless.
  • There is a lift provided for the disabled.
  • There are special benefits for the unemployed.

All Things

We use ‘the’ when indicating that it effects all types of that thing.

  • The blue whale is the largest animal alive today.
  • The giraffe is significantly lighter than the hippopotamus.
  • The liver regulates chemical levels in the blood.

Practice Exercises

Exercise 1

Fill in the missing articles:  

African Elephant

African elephant is largest of proboscids. Of course, there are only two species of proboscids— other species being Asian elephant—so being bigger of two species many not sound like much of an achievement. But not only are African elephants largest proboscid, they are also largest land animal. Asian elephants are second largest land animal, followed by white rhinoceros and hippopotamus.

Exercise 2

Here is a map of The Isolated Island. The students are going to practice using ‘the’ when there is only one of something, as The Isolated Island only has one of each thing. Write the numbers 1 to 25 on small pieces of paper and mix them up. Make a copy of the map for each of the students, as they are going to be telling a story about the island. The first student needs to choose a number and start off the story using their item. The next student follows on by choosing the next number and continuing the story. Make sure that the students use ‘the’ correctly throughout the story.

This can alternatively be done as a written exercise with the students writing their story following the number sequence consecutively.

Exercise 3

This exercise would be best done for homework.

Give each of the students one of the following topics:

  •  the Pope
  • the Queen of England
  • the capital of the United States
  • the longest river
  • the internet
  • the sun
  • the universe
  • the highest mountain

 The students need to write 5 questions each about their topic, and every question needs to include the phrase that they have been given. They need to find out the answers to their questions at home, and formulate a multiple choice quiz for the rest of the class. At the next lesson the students can ask each other their quizzes. You can do this as a competition and see who gets the highest score.

The above grammar presentation and activities are an extract from my e-notes on Definite and Indefinite Articles. I have written 10 step-by-step ready to teach and ready formatted lessons, with lots of fun writing and speaking activities for your students to practice. Find out more.

Would you like a copy of my 'Definite & Indefinite Articles' Lesson Plans e-notes? They include:

  • 10 ready made lessons
  • Students' and Teacher's Notes
  • Answer Key
  • Grammar Presentations
  • Gap Fill Activities
  • Find the mistake Activities
  • Speaking Exercises
  • Writing Exercises
  • Uncountable Nouns
  • The definite & Indefinite Article
  • Zero Article
  • Authentic texts from the media
  • pdf format
  • Notes on how to do the lessons
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