1. There is a pencil on the desk.
  2. He is in the room.

In the sentences above, why should we use 'the' in the preposition phrase? What is the meaning of 'the' in this case?

  • 1
    The indicates a particular member of the class. A particular desk. A particular room. Not just any desk, not just any room. – Tᴚoɯɐuo Sep 20 '16 at 10:18

It does not have to be "the" but you need some determiner. You could not say "there is a pencil on desk" but you could say "there is a pencil on a desk" and you could also use "this" or "my" or "your" or many other words.

"The" marks a specific desk; usually, it will be clear from context which desk is meant.

| improve this answer | |
  • 1
    More to the point, it implies that the it is a desk which has already been mentioned, or is otherwise known to the hearer. – Colin Fine Sep 20 '16 at 16:26
  • 2
    @Colin - Generally so, although there are some interesting exceptions. For example: The lion is the king of the jungle. Music tames the savage beast. A bird in the hand beats two in the bush. What I need is a nice vacation on the beach. – J.R. Sep 20 '16 at 21:01
  • @J.R.: you're right, there are other uses of "the". But this is the ordinary one. – Colin Fine Sep 21 '16 at 13:08

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