Most of IELTS candidates do not know, when to use the article “the”. The problem lies in the usage of “the” unnecessarily in sentences. Let us understand why and when do we require “the” in our sentences.

The basics of Articles

There are basically three articles a, an and the. These articles are used before a noun and are called indefinite articles. Indefinite articles are used when quantity on the noun is not known i.e indefinite. A noun can be any place, thing, person and thought. We use articles before the noun to complete the sentence correctly. For instance, in sentence “Doctors recommend an apple a day.”, the article “an” is used before noun “apple”. We use article “an“, when the noun starts with a vowel i.e (a, e, i, o, u), in the example “apple” is a noun starting with a vowel so we must write “an” before it.

But, for other nouns, the article “a” is used. For example, “There is a banana on the table.”, in this sentence the noun “banana” is not a vowel, therefore we do not use “an” but “a“.

The “the” factor

Unlike the articles “a” and “an“, which are used with vowels, the article “the” can be used with any noun irrespective of it being starting with a vowel. The article “the” is called finite article. A finite article also tells the count i.e it can be one, group or multiple.

So what is the difference between finite and infinite article? The difference lies in the fact that we use “the” when we have to specifically tell and modify the noun. For example, in sentence “I am reading the book you gave me yesterday.”, this means that from many books, only that specific book was read. Lets take another example, “I am reading the book from library”, is this a correct sentence? The answer is No, because when we use “the” we also specify the relation of it for being specific. Here there is no specification, but only an information that a book was read from library. It can be “I am reading the book you were reading yesterday”, in this sentence the specification is provided.

Article “the” also tells that the noun is specific, for example, we usually write “The Taj Mahal”, because “Taj Mahal” is a noun and there is no other “Taj Mahal” in this world, thus it specifies that, it is the only known place in the world. Again we write, “The French”, here it is a group of people and the only article, that prefixes a group of people is “the”.

Most of unfortunately use the article “the” incorrectly. When we use it in writing incorrectly, it certainly decreases your band score. I tried to explain you in a minimal way, I would love to take your suggestions or feedback on the same.

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