- 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 © 2015
- (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 adv.
- (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),
- (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 Alps;
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
:the book, the mountain (ᵺə book, ᵺə moun′tn). Before a vowel sound it is usually (ᵺē),
:the apple, the end (ᵺē or ᵺi ap′əl, ᵺē or ᵺi end).
As an emphatic form ("I didn't say a book--I said the book.'') or a citation form ("The wordtheis a definite article.''), the usual pronunciation is (ᵺē),
although in both of these uses of the stressed form, (ᵺē)
is often replaced by (ᵺu),
especially among younger speakers.
the2 (before a consonant ᵺə; before a vowel ᵺē),
Old English thē, thȳ, instrumental case of demonstrative pronoun. See that, lest
var. of theo- before a vowel:thearchy.
- (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