''The'' () is a grammatical article
, denoting persons or things already mentioned, under discussion, implied or otherwise presumed familiar to listeners, readers or speakers. It is the definite article
in English. ''The'' is the most commonly used word
in the English language; studies and analyses of texts have found it to account for seven percent of all printed English-language words. It is derived from gendered articles in Old English
which combined in Middle English
and now has a single form used with pronouns of either gender. The word can be used with both singular and plural nouns and with a noun that starts with any letter. This is different from many other languages which have different forms of the definite article for different genders or numbers.
In most dialects, "the" is pronounced as (with the voiced dental fricative
followed by a schwa
) when followed by a consonant
sound, and as (homophone of pronoun ''thee
'') when followed by a vowel sound or used as an emphatic form
and New Zealand English
have an increasing tendency to limit usage of pronunciation and use , even before a vowel.
Definite article principles in English are described under "Use of articles
". ''The'', as in phrases like "the more the better", has a distinct origin and etymology and by chance has evolved to be identical to the definite article.
''The'' and ''that'' are common developments from the same Old English
system. Old English had a definite article ''se
'' (in the masculine gender
'' (feminine), and ''þæt''
(neuter). In Middle English
, these had all merged
into ''þe'', the ancestor of the Modern English
An area in which the use or non-use of ''the'' is sometimes problematic is with geographic names
*notable natural landmarks – rivers, seas, mountain ranges, deserts, island groups (archipelago
es) and so on – are generally used with a "the" definite article (''the Rhine'', ''the North Sea'', ''the Alps'', ''the Sahara'', ''the Hebrides
*continents, individual islands, administrative units and settlements mostly do not take a "the" article (''Europe'', ''Jura
'', ''Austria'' (but ''the Republic of Austria''), ''Scandinavia'', ''Yorkshire'' (but ''the County of York''), ''Madrid'').
*beginning with a common noun followed by ''of'' may take the article, as in ''the Isle of Wight
'' or ''the Isle of Portland
'' (compare ''Christmas Island''), same applies to names of institutions: ''Cambridge University'', but ''the University of Cambridge''.
*Some names include an article, such as the Bronx
or The Hague
*generally described singular names, ''the North Island'' (New Zealand) or ''the West Country'' (England), take an article.
Countries and territorial regions are notably mixed, most exclude "the" but there are some that adhere to secondary rules:
* derivations from collective common nouns such as "kingdom", "republic", "union", etc.: ''the Central African Republic'', ''the Dominican Republic'', ''the United States'', ''the United Kingdom'', ''the Soviet Union'', ''the United Arab Emirates'', including most country full names: ''the Czech Republic'' (but ''Czechia''), ''the Russian Federation'' (but ''Russia''), ''the Principality of Monaco'' (but ''Monaco''), ''the State of Israel'' (but ''Israel'') and ''the Commonwealth of Australia'' (but ''Australia'').
* countries in a plural noun: ''the Netherlands
'', ''the Falkland Islands
'', ''the Faroe Islands
'', ''the Cayman Islands
'', ''the Philippines
'', ''the Comoros
'', the Maldives
, the Seychelles
, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines
, and The Bahamas
*Singular derivations from "island" or "land" that hold administrative rights – ''Greenland'', ''England
'', ''Christmas Island
'' and ''Norfolk Island
'' – do not take a "the" definite article.
* derivations from mountain ranges, rivers, deserts, etc., are sometimes used with an article, even for singular, (''the Lebanon'', ''the Sudan'', ''the Yukon'', ''the Congo''). This usage is in decline, The Gambia
remains recommended where as use of ''the Argentine'' for Argentina
is considered old-fashioned. Since Ukraine
‘s independence, most style guides have advised against ''the Ukraine''. In other languages
, that have used or use Cyrillic
script, have similar style guides involving prepositions.
Since "the" is one of the most frequently used words in English, at various times short abbreviations for it have been found:
: the earliest abbreviation, it is used in manuscripts in the Old English language
. It is the letter þ
with a bold horizontal stroke through the ascender
, and it represents the word ''þæt'', meaning "the" or "that" (neuter nom.
*þͤ and þͭ (þ
with a superscript ''e'' or ''t'') appear in Middle English
manuscripts for "þe" and "þat" respectively.
*yͤ and yͭ are developed from ''þͤ'' and ''þͭ'' and appear in Early Modern manuscripts and in print (see ''Ye'' form
Occasional proposals have been made by individuals for an abbreviation. In 1916, Legros & Grant included in their classic printers' handbook ''Typographical Printing-Surfaces'', a proposal for a letter similar to Ħ to represent "Th", thus abbreviating "the" to ħe.Missed Opportunity for Ligatures
In Middle English, ''the'' (þe) was frequently abbreviated as a ''þ'' with a small ''e'' above it, similar to the abbreviation for ''that'', which was a ''þ'' with a small ''t'' above it. During the latter Middle English and Early Modern English periods, the letter thorn (þ) in its common script, or cursive form, came to resemble a ''y'' shape. As a result, the use of a ''y'' with an ''e'' above it () as an abbreviation became common. This can still be seen in reprints of the 1611 edition of the King James Version of the Bible in places such as Romans 15:29, or in the Mayflower Compact. Historically, the article was never pronounced with a ''y'' sound, even when so written.