How should I use the definite article in this particular situation?

OK,let's imagine the following conversation:

A: Hello B.

B: Hello A, what's that you're doing?

A: I often share the housework with my brother

My question is,
Does it make sense when A says "I often share the housework with my brother"?

Person A knew exactly his specific housework so he uses "the housework*", but person B doesn't know which "the housework" is.

What if A says: "I often share my housework with my brother". In this case, B could figure out which "my housework" is.

  • 1
    Why does the beginning of the conversation exist? what does it add to the question? No one would say hello and then randomly make a statement like that.
    – Catija
    Commented Aug 20, 2016 at 14:22
  • At least it is the germ of a context, which is a lot better than no context at all. Thanks, Tom. Commented Aug 20, 2016 at 14:56
  • This question has been bumped by the system every month since September 2016...
    – Mari-Lou A
    Commented Aug 18, 2019 at 7:47
  • I would omit any determiner: “I often share housework…” — In each version, I read it to imply that A and brother live apart, but often go to each other's house to help with each other's housework. If they live together, why is the sharing worth mention? Commented Sep 20, 2019 at 18:12

3 Answers 3


B can infer or identify which housework it is because a typical household involves housework. So, B would readily interpret/identify the housework as the housework associated with this particular living situation or household. All living situations/households involve such things as chores, housework, routine maintenance, etc., all of which can be referred to using a definite noun phrase (using the). For example, in

I often wash the dishes with my brother

the dishes is naturally going to refer to the dishes associated with A's household.

I often mow the lawn with my brother

is going to refer to the lawn of A's household, unless otherwise specified.

I often do the wash with my brother.

Here, wash refers to wash (dirty clothes, linen, etc) associated with this house, family or living situation. If A wanted to be explicit he could say my wash. But, still, this might refer not just to A's own clothes, linen, etc, but to the wash that A is responsible for doing. If A wanted to be more specific, he could say my own wash or the wash I'm responsible for doing.

In addition, if A had says

I often walk the dogs with my brother

B can infer that A means the dogs that live with this particular family or pair of brothers or whatever. If A wants to specify only his 'personal dogs' and not the dogs of the household or family, he could say my dogs.


A: Hello B.
B: Hello A, what's that you're doing?
A: I often share the housework with my brother

It's not the most natural way to start a conversation, despite the recent edit, but the use of the definite article with “housework” is perfectly fine in that example.

Speaker B will understand which "housework" speaker A is referring to, it is the housework they (he/she) share with their (his/her) brother.

When a concept is universally understood, it doesn't need to have been previously mentioned.

  1. Me: If there's one thing I hate about housework, that's doing the ironing.
  2. Bob: I don't mind doing the washing-up as long as someone does the drying.
  3. Carol: Cleaning the windows is a real chore, we have so many

Which housework (no article) am I referring to? The ironing that I do at home, not someone else's.
What housework doesn't Bob mind doing? The job of washing up.
Which housework does Carol think is a real chore? Cleaning the windows in her home.


No, the definite article "the" doesn't belong here, precisely because it is the beginning of the conversation so "the housework" doesn't have any referent in the discourse. Also, it's unusual to begin a conversation with "Hello" and then go straight to an extemporaneous statement---it would be better to connect the other speaker in some way.

You could say:

A: Hello B
B: Hello A
A: I want to ask your advice about housework at my house. Currently I often share the housework with my brother.

The first use of "housework" doesn't have a definite article. But this first use establishes "housework at my house" in the discourse. Then in the second sentence, "the housework" can be used to refer to it.

You could also say this, without using "the":

A: Hello B
B: Hello A
A: Did I tell you what happened? You know I often share housework with my brother. But now he doesn't want to help. Can you believe it?

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