Should I use the article before the word "word" in the question :

How do you describe the word "tissues"?

2 Answers 2


Yes. In that case, as it's a single word, you would use the definite article. Your example is correct.

If you were trying to find what word to use for something, then you want one word of many, so it's the indefinite article. "What's a word that means..."


Yes, you should use the word "the". I believe the relevant definition of "the" is 2 b (1) here: https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/the

—used as a function word before a noun to limit its application to that specified by a succeeding element in the sentence

//the poet Wordsworth

//the days of our youth

//didn't have the time to write

As @SamBC says, the definite article as opposed to the indefinite article is appropriate here. You also cannot use no article, if that is what you were asking. In general, any non-proper, non-mass, singular noun requires an article in English. (I cannot think of a good example to refute this argument.)

  • I believe they might have thought about it as in the following: english.stackexchange.com/questions/419593/… (see the question linked there as well).
    – user3395
    Feb 8, 2019 at 21:47
  • @userr2684291 ok yes, I could see that someone might think this is an example of a restrictive appositive where the "the" is optional. But that is not the case here - I think it might only work with names of things. Like "Poet Wordsworth", "Parameter foo", etc. "tissues" is not the name of the word, it is just an example of a word.
    – Mixolydian
    Feb 8, 2019 at 23:55

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