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We usually use the for nouns (or words that act as nouns) that are specific/known.
For example:
The boy.
The movie (we watched).

Here the refers to the nouns boy & movie respectively. But what about the situation where there an adjective is between the definite article and the noun, like:

The nice boy.
The interesting movie.

Here, to what word does the definite article refer, to boy or nice or the construct nice boy, and to interesting or movie or both?

That is, I meant, what word is specific/known in these sentences that we used the definite article for them?

  • Nice boy and interesting movie is a noun phrase. Nice and interesting are adjuncts that modify the main nouns boy and movie. – user178049 Nov 27 '16 at 8:31
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    The rule you are relying is not quite accurate. It should be "use the for a noun or a noun phrase" – user178049 Nov 27 '16 at 8:32
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    I agree; the articles determine a noun phrase, whether it be a noun alone as in Hand me the screwdriver or a noun with dependents as in Pass me the tall ladder. – BillJ Nov 27 '16 at 8:41
  • Thank you all for the useful comments. So in my sentences, the article refers to the construct or as you say, the noun phrases. That is, that noun phrase is known/specific. – Abbasi Nov 27 '16 at 8:48
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    @franky yes, you are right! – user178049 Nov 27 '16 at 9:23

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