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Using English Articles: Using English Articles (#11)

Dennis Oliver
Using English Articles (#11)

Because the English articles (a, an, the) are often very
challenging for learners of the language, the next several
Hints will provide guidelines on their usage.


The Definite Article The (#9)

Here are a few more common uses for the:


before plural family names (to indicate
the family as a group):

Are the Smiths on vacation?
(Is the Smith family on vacation?)

The Thompsons don't live here now.
(The Thompson family doesn't live here now.)

The Huangs just moved here from Taiwan.
(The Huang family just moved here from Taiwan.)


before plural family names (to indicate
the husband and wife):

How long have the Perellis been married?
(How long have Mr. and Mrs. Perelli
been married?)

Both of the Nowickis work for IBM.
(Both Mr. and Mrs. Nowicki work for IBM.)

The McLeods just got a divorce.
(Mr. and Mrs. McLeod just got a divorce.)


before plural expressions of nationality
(to indicate, generally, the people of
a country or culture):

The Chinese have a very long history.

The Mayans developed a very accurate calendar.

The Basques speak a language which is not
related to any other language.

The Ainu are an aboriginal people.

The Navajo are the largest Native American
tribal group.


before certain adjectives (to mean
[adjective] people" in general):

Will the meek inherit the earth?

How can we help the poor?

There are many shelters for the homeless.

Do the rich have more responsibility?

Where is "the land of the free and the home
of the brave?"

Dr. Szabo works in a hospital for
the criminally insane.

Which is more important: the needs of
the many or the needs of the few?


before the names of things on a menu /
things ordered from a menu:

Waiter: I suggest the veal scallopini. It's one
of the chef's specialties.

Customer: I'll have the spinach lasagna, please.

Customer: Is the trout fresh or frozen?


before the names of famous documents:

That is a quotation from the Egyptian
Book of the Dead.

This reference is to the Tao Te Ching.

Joel always carries a copy of the Book
of Mormon.

Who wrote the Emancipation Proclamation?


before the names of most newspapers:

We subscribe to The Arizona Republic.

Have you read The New York Times?

I used to get The Dallas Morning News.


before the names of most hotels and motels:

He stayed in the Hyatt Regency.

I stayed in the Downtown Best Western.

Meet me in front of the Four Seasons.


Special Note:

The before plural family names can refer to the entire
family or to the husband and wife; if possible, use context
to determine which reference is intended:

Do you know the Figueroas? ("The Figueroas" can mean
either the Figueroa family or Mr. and Mrs. Figueroa.)

Note: Some people write "the Figueroa's"
or "the
 Figueroas' (for example) to show
 meanings above. Using 's or s' for
'the [name]
 family' or 'Mr. and Mrs.[name] '
is actually
 incorrect, but it is still common.

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