This site says:

We also use the definite article:

• to say something about all the things referred to by a noun:

The wolf is not really a dangerous animal (= Wolves are not really dangerous animals)

The kangaroo is found only in Australia (= Kangaroos are found only in Australia)

The heart pumps blood around the body. (= Hearts pump blood around bodies)

My question is that

In its basic sense, "the" refers to things that are specific.

For example, I don't like the bird (we are talking about that specific bird - the one that I know)

However, "The" is also used to refer to "all things in general".

For example, The bird can sing.

So, when I say "I don't like the bird", do I mean "I don't like birds in general"?

"The" is very ambiguous, in this case.

So, When shouldn't we use "the" to refer to "all the things" in general?

  • Context makes sense. Oct 25, 2017 at 6:15

1 Answer 1


The article's purpose is to orient to the listener to your thought. Do you have any bird in mind, a particular bird, or Bird as class?

Since, as you say, the can refer to a particular bird or to the class, the article alone won't fully orient the listener.

If you have not mentioned a particular bird yet, but wish to refer to a particular bird, you can provide additional orienting information to make it clear to your listener that you have a particular bird in mind, not the class Bird:

The bird outside my window ...

The bird that made its nest in our maple tree ...

The bird is making a cooing sound.

The class Bird cannot be outside your window. The class Bird cannot be the subject of actions-in-progress.

In conversations it is natural to include such orienting information without really thinking much about it.

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