I have asked simular questions quite a lot, but no one could give a clear answer, so I am desperate. I can not figure out when I need to omit or use "the." Here are a few examples.

  1. I slipped over last month and I led to (the) disruption of my knee tendon.
  2. They are thinking about (the) closure of the bank.
  3. (The) distribution of wealth in the world in unequal.
  4. We must reach (the) consistency of our learning.
  5. We must promote(the) teaching of English.

Is the use of "the" is optional or necessary if it is necessary explain it for me why, please!!!

  • You may be assuming use of the definite article is consistent and follows strict rules. I'm not sure that's the case. For example this article is not complete, because idiomatically "the delivery of electricity" is correct, but "Electrical delivery" does not need the definite article. Past a certain point I suspect you'll just have to copy what native speakers do.
    – Andrew
    Nov 29, 2017 at 20:56
  • 2
    Google might help here. For example, you say "disruption of my knee tendon" but that's not idiomatic. A quick google for "knee injury" should yield many articles with the nouns fracture, dislocation, sprain, and tear and so you know you probably want to use one of these instead of "disruption". You can also read where nouns include and do not include the definite article, e.g. "anterior cruciate ligament tears are common sports injuries" or "tears of the anterior cruciate ligament are ..."
    – Andrew
    Nov 29, 2017 at 21:02
  • 2
    I would be more concerned about the naturalness of your sentences than whether the definite article is needed or not. It is difficult to answer or supply solutions when your examples are clearly not written by a native speaker. Why not select real sentences from English native speakers and ask why the articles were or were not used there?
    – Mari-Lou A
    Nov 29, 2017 at 22:11
  • You cannot say: I led to the (yes, you need the article) disruption of my knee tendon OR ...in the world in unequal
    – Mari-Lou A
    Nov 29, 2017 at 22:14
  • 1
    This is confusing because 4 days ago you already asked about The definite article before the word "consistency" and "of" and you accepted an answer. So it seems you understood in that case. Or did you? Nov 30, 2017 at 4:46

2 Answers 2


From Geoffrey Leech and Jan Svartvik A Communicative Grammar of English, 3rd ed.

Notice that English tends to treat mass nouns and plural nouns as generic when they have a modifier before them (Chinese history). But when they are followed by a modifier, especially by an of-phrase, the normally has to be present (the history of China). Compare:

Chinese history...........the history of China

American social life........the social life of America

early mediaeval architecture.........the architecture of the early middle ages

animal behaviour................the behaviour of animals

The tendency is strong with abstract mass nouns. It is less strong with concrete mass nouns and plural nouns. We can omit the in

eighteenth-century furniture......(the) furniture of the eighteenth century

tropical birds.........(the) birds of the tropics

Compare: They are doing some interesting research on [Iron Age forts] or [(the) forts of the Iron Age].

  • 1
    Could you please edit your answer to indicate which parts are quotes from the book and which parts are your own words? Nov 30, 2017 at 2:01
  • @Clare The whole of it is a direct quote from the book. Could anybody kindly explain the downvoting? Are you not interested in the knowledge from reliable sources? Nov 30, 2017 at 5:28

In English there are two articles: the definite article (the) and the indefinite article (spelled either a or an depending on the initial sound of the following word). Articles are used before nouns or noun equivalents and are a type of adjective. The definite article (the) is used before a noun to indicate that the identity of the noun is known to the reader. The indefinite article (a, an) is used before a noun that is general or when its identity is not known. There are certain situations in which a noun takes no article.

Examples of how and when to apply them:

Definite article

The (before a singular or plural noun)

Indefinite article

a (before a singular noun beginning with a consonant sound) an (before a singular noun beginning with a vowel sound)

Count nouns - refers to items that can be counted and are either singular or plural.

Non-count nouns - refers to items that are not counted and are always singular

For the purposes of understanding how articles are used, it is important to know that nouns can be either count (can be counted) or noncount (indefinite in quantity and cannot be counted). In addition, count nouns are either singular (one) or plural (more than one). Noncount nouns are always in singular form.

For example, if we are speaking of water that has been spilled on the table, there can be one drop (singular) or two or more drops (plural) of water on the table. The word drop in this example is a count noun because we can count the number of drops. Therefore, according to the rules applying to count nouns, the word drop would use the articles a or the.

However, if we are speaking of water in general spilled on the table, it would not be appropriate to count one water or two waters -- there would simply be water on the table. Water is a noncount noun. Therefore, according to the rules applying to noncount nouns, the word water would use no article or the, but not a.

Use the article the when a particular noun has already been mentioned previously.

I ate an apple yesterday. The apple was juicy and delicious.

Use the article the when an adjective, phrase, or clause describing the noun clarifies or restricts its identity.

They are thinking about (the) closure of the bank. The boy sitting next to me raised his hand. Thank you for the advice you gave me.

Use the article the when the noun refers to something or someone that is unique.

The theory of relativity. (The) distribution of wealth in the world in unequal.

Use no article with plural count nouns or any noncount nouns used to mean all or in general.

Trees are beautiful in the fall. (All trees are beautiful in the fall.) We must promote teaching in schools.(In all schools we must promote teaching).

  • Note that more advanced treatments posit more than 2 articles in English. Master includes 'some' as well as the two 'invisible' articles, the zero (Ø1) and the null (Ø2). Examples: We had Ø1 chicken / a chicken for tea. // She was hired as Ø2 special assistant / the special assistant to the president. //// Article usage is complex. Collins has a 100+ page monograph on the subject, and it lacks Master's work. Aug 9, 2021 at 10:48

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .