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For other uses, see.

For, "The #1s" redirects here. For the band, see.

The  (About this sound ) is a grammatical in, denoting person(s) or thing(s) already mentioned, under discussion, implied, or otherwise presumed familiar to listeners or readers. It is the only in English. The is the in the English language, accounting for 7% of all words. It is derived from gendered articles in Old English which merged in and now has a single form used with nouns of either gender. It can be used with both singular and plural nouns and with nouns that start with any letter. This is different from many other languages which have different articles for different genders or numbers.



In most dialects, "the" is pronounced as /ðə/ (with the /ð/ followed by a ) when followed by a sound, and as /ðiː/ (homophonous with ) when followed by a vowel sound or used as an. In modern, however, there is an increasing tendency to limit the usage of the latter pronunciation to emphatic purposes and use the former even before a vowel. The same change is happening in.

In some Northern England of English, the is pronounced [t̪ə] (with a ) or as a, usually written in as ⟨t⟩; in some dialects it reduces to nothing. This is known as.

In dialects that do not have the voiced dental fricative /ð/, the is pronounced with the, as in /d̪ə/ or /d̪iː/).


The and that are common developments from the same system. Old English had a definite article (in the masculine ), (feminine), and (neuter). In, these had all into þe, the ancestor of the word the.

The principles of the use of the definite article in English are described under "". The word 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. (See the Wiktionary entry.)

Geographical names[]

An area in which the use or non-use of the is sometimes problematic is with. Names of rivers, seas, mountain ranges, deserts, island groups () and the like are generally used with the definite article (the Rhine, the North Sea, the Alps, the Sahara, the ).

Names of continents, individual islands, countries, regions, administrative units, cities and towns mostly do not take the article (Europe,, Germany, Scandinavia, Yorkshire, Madrid). However, there are certain exceptions:

  • Countries and territories the names of which derive from common nouns such as "kingdom" or "republic" take the article: the United States, the United Kingdom, the Soviet Union, the Czech Republic.
  • Countries and territories the names of which derive from "island" or "land" however only take the definite article if they represent a plural noun: the Netherlands do, the, the and the Cayman Islands do, even the Philippines or the Comoros do, though the plural noun "islands" is omitted there. The (singular) Greenland on the other hand doesn't take the definite article, neither does dress or.
  • Certain countries and regions the names of which derive from mountain ranges, rivers, deserts, etc. are sometimes used with an article even though in the singular (the Lebanon, the Sudan, the Yukon), but this usage is declining, although remains the recommended name of that country. Since the independence of (formerly sometimes called the Ukraine), most style guides have advised dropping the article (in some other languages there is a ). Use of the Argentine for is considered old-fashioned.
  • Some names include an article for historical reasons, such as, or to reproduce the native name ().
  • Names beginning with a common noun followed by of may take the article, as in the or the (compare Christmas Island). The same applies to names of institutions: Cambridge University, but the University of Cambridge.

Abbreviations for "the" and "that"[]

Barred thorn (after Ælfric)

Since "the" is one of the most frequently used words in English, at various times short abbreviations for it have been found:

  • Barred :  the earliest abbreviation, it is used in manuscripts in the. It is the letter with a bold horizontal stroke through the, and it represents the word þæt, meaning "the" or "that" (neuter / )
  • þͤ and þͭ  ( with a superscript e or t) appear in manuscripts for "þe" and "þat" respectively.
  • and   are developed from þͤ and þͭ and appear in Early Modern manuscripts and in print (see below).

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. Why they did not propose reintroducing to the English language "þ", for which blocks were already available for use in texts, or the form is unknown.

Ye form[]

See also:

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 and periods, the letter (þ) in its common script, or form, came to resemble a y shape. As a result, the use of a y with an e above it (EME ye.svg) as an abbreviation became common. This can still be seen in reprints of the 1611 edition of the in places such as Romans 15:29, or in the. Historically, the article was never pronounced with a y sound, even when so written.


  1. Norvig, Peter.. 
  2. . Merriam Webster Online Dictionary
  3. ; Johnson, Keith (2010). A Course in Phonetics (6th ed.). Boston: Wadsworth. p. 110. 
  4. Hay, Jennifer (2008). New Zealand English. Edinburgh:. p. 44. 
  5. .. Retrieved 18 June 2015. 
  6. "the, adv.1." OED Online. Oxford University Press, March 2016. Web. 11 March 2016.
  7. Swan, Michael How English Works, p. 25
  8. by Andrew Gregorovich, infoukes.com

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