The definite article whose function is that of identification or individualization of living beings, things, or notions, may refer to any noun of any class both in the singular and plural. The individual description of countable/uncountable, animate/inanimate and human/ non-human nouns with reference to the definite article is unnecessary because they are either common or proper, and either concrete or abstract.
Definite article before common nouns
The definite article is used in the following cases:
a) Before concrete nouns either in the singular or plural that mention a particular person or thing, because it is already known, or talked about: / have a daughter and a son, the daughter is ten, the son is three years younger. This is a book; the book is on the table. Please take the letters to the post office. (It is understood that you know which letters and which post office. Compare: You can pay your phone bills at a post office. (=any post office))
b) Before concrete nouns denoting objects unique in a given situation or at large: The sun is shining. The sky is blue.
c) In the generic sense before concrete nouns in the singular: My favourite flower is the lilac. The ostrich is the largest living bird. The computer has totally changed office work.
d) In the meaning «one’s» before concrete nouns: How is the leg today? (your leg) The car broke down again today, (my car)
e) Before concrete nouns denoting materials in a certain amount or a particular context: The water is cold today. Where is the salt? Pass me the pepper, please.
f) Before nouns denoting human activities, especially musical, but not including sports: She is studying the law. He plays the violin. (Compare: She plays tennis.}
g) Before nouns denoting directions, such as north, south, west, east: A strange light appeared in the south. They moved to the north of the country.
h) Before adjectives as part of their substantivized forms: The rich must help the poor. The library offers a special service for the blind. The following is the summary of the article.
i) Before nouns or the substitutional one, attributed by adjectives in the superlative degree: This is the most interesting film I ever saw. The Louvre is the most famous French museum of art.
j) Before abstract nouns denoting particular notions: The life of a writer is difficult. We study the history of the English language.
Definite article before proper nouns
The definite article is used to determine proper nouns in the following cases:
a) Before persons’ surnames in the plural to refer to the whole family: The Browns were sitting at the table and having tea.
b) Before a person’s name or surname with the limiting attribute: She was again the Marv he had met years ago.
c) As part of substantivized adjectives and before ordinals in the names of kings: Peter I (pronounced «the first»), Louise XIY (pronounced «the fourteenth»}, Alexander the Great.
d) As part of substantivized adjectives denoting nationalities: The British are famous for their conservatism.
e) Before names of countries and states including words like republic, union, commonwealth, kingdom, states: the German Federal Republic, the Soviet Union, the Commonwealth of Independent States, the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, the United States of America.
f) Before names denoting groups of islands: the British Isles, the Bahamas, the Canary Islands.
g) Before names of mountain ranges in the plural: the Rocky Mountains/the Rockies, the Alps/the Swiss Alps.
h) Before names of rivers, channels, canals, seas, oceans: the Nile, the Thames, the English Channel, the Suez Canal, the Baltic Sea, the Pacific (Ocean).
i) Before names of regions: the Far East, the Middle East.
j) Before a limited number of names of cities and streets: the Hague(a city in the Netherlands), the Strand, the Mall (streets in London).
k) Before names of cities, countries, etc., with the limited attribute: the London of the 1980s., the England of the 19” century.
1) Before names of hotels, restaurants or pubs, theatres, cinemas, museums or art galleries: the Hilton (Hotel),
the Peking (Restaurant), the National Theatre, the Covent Garden, the British Museum, the Tate Gallery.
m) Before names of places or buildings, especially with the limiting of- attribute: The Empire State Building, The Bank of Scotland, the Houses of Parliament, the Museum of Fine Arts.
n) Before names of newspapers, magazines, journals, etc.: «The Times», «The Economist», «The Observer».
Definite article in collocations and set expressions
a) The definite article may be used before nouns of any class defined by the limiting attribute or a subordinate clause: He kicked the snow from his shoes and then came up to the armchair opposite mine. She walked along the street that led to his house. She is the lady who lives next door to me.
b) The definite article is used before nouns attributed by ordinals, by the adjectives same, very in the meaning «actual», following, next in the meaning «closest in space, order, or degree; immediately following in time», last in the meaning «after the others; final; the least suitable»: He was the first person to arrive. My father sits in the same chair every evening. She died at the very height of her fame. This was the very thing he looked for. He felt sick hut on the following day he seemed quite well again. The next house to ours is a mile away. Where will you be during the next few weeks?
c) The definite article is used after the words one of, some of, many of, each of: Can I have one of the books?
Some of the articles are easy to translate. Each of the boys got excellent marks.
Besides, the definite article is part of numerous a) preposition + noun set phrases used in a sentence as , adverbial modifiers or predicatives and b) verb + noun set phrases functioning as one verb.
a) Preposition + noun/substentivized adjective set phrases: at the top, at the bottom, in the beginning, in the middle, in the centre, in the end, in the rain, in the cold, in the heat, in the main, in the market, in the original, in the slightest, on the whole, on the one handEon the other hand, on the alert, on the look-out, on the market; out of the question, to the life.
b) Verb +noun set phrases: be on the safe side, break the heart, break the ice, break the news, keep the bed, play the game, take the trouble to do, tell the truth.
Zero article: usage
The zero article (no article) whose function is that of generalization may be used to determine nouns of any lexical class both in the singular and plural.
Zero article before common nouns
No article is used in the following cases: a) Before concrete class nouns (countables) in the plural denoting persons or things which are not already mentioned or known about, either with or without a descriptive attribute: Charles Dickens and William Thackeray are writers. They are famous writers. I have slight stomach pains. A bookcase contains shelves to hold books. (See 18.104.22.168.}
Note that plural nouns of the category are often determined by the indefinite pronouns some, any: Have you got any books on English art? — Yes, I have some (books).
b) After the words such, quite, most, what before co-untables in the plural: I’ve never met such beautiful girls. They are quite young men. These are most interesting films. What nice days we have spent there.
c) Before concrete nouns of materials the amounts of which are not defined: Life is impossible without water. The vegetables need more salt. Pepper and nutmeg are spices.
d) Before abstract uncountable nouns, etc.: No news is good news. Jealousy is worse than envy.
e) Before nouns denoting fields of knowledge: I don’t like mathematics. He is fond of history. She studies linguistics.
f) Before nouns denoting periods of time, attributed by the words next and last, as well as before nouns attributed by cardinals in postposition: Last winter we traveled in the Swiss Alps. Next summer we are going to Italy. Next week we 11 have 3 English classes.
g) Before singular or plural nouns denoting persons addressed by someone: Come quickly, doctor.
h) After kind of and sort of before either singular or plural nouns: What sort of music do you like best? I don’t like that sort of book. That kind/sort of question is very difficult. There were all sorts of colour.
i) Before nouns used in newspaper titles, announcements, advertisements, etc.: «Former Judge Sentenced Over Driving Offences», «Night Intruder», «Driver».
Zero article before proper nouns
No article is usually used in the following cases.
a) Before names of cities, towns, villages, streets, etc.: London is the capital of Great Britain. (For exceptions see 2.5.2.)
b) Before names of shops, restaurants, banks, etc., ending in -5 or -‘s, which are named after people who started them: Selfridges, Harrods (shops), Maxim’s, Macdonalds (restaurants), Barclay Bank, Lloyd Bank.
c) Before words like Mother, Father, Uncle, Aunt, etc. used by members of a family: Has Father come back yet? Mother wants to speak to you.
d) Before nouns denoting persons’ ranks and attributing proper names: The monograph is written by Professor White. Doctor Smith is to take the flow.
Zero article in collocations and set expressions
No article is used before nouns determined by possessive, demonstrative, interrogative, indefinite and negative pronouns. (See Chapter IY)
A great number of set expressions contain nouns without article:
a) preposition + noun/substentivized adjective set phrases: at present, at first sight, at dawn, at sunrise, at sunset, at night, at peace, at sea, at work, at last, at least, at once, at hand, at best, at worst; by day, by chance, by mistake, by land, by air, by sea, by train, by metro, by post, by air mail, by name, by moonlight; for hours, for ages, for miles; from day to day, from morning till night, from head to foot, from beginning to end, from birth to grave, from spring to autumn, from east to west, from
grief, from joy, from fear, from shame, from memory; in bed, in debt, in revenge, in question, in silk, in red, in time for; on duty, on fire, on foot, on holiday, on horseback, on leave, on principle, on sale, on time; under consideration.
b) verb + noun set phrases: bear/have in mind, break cover, break ground, cast doubt on, catch cold, catch fire, come to grief, come/bring to life, come to light, come to pass, give/ask (for) permission, give birth, give rise, give way, have breakfast/lunch, dinner, go to bed, keep house, keep in mind, lose heart, make haste, make sense, make use of, set to work, take advantage of, take into account, take to heart, take offence, take part, take place, take revenge.