I am learning English and I have a question. There is a sentence:

Nick went into the bathroom, turned on the water and washed his hands.

What is the grammar rule uses here?

  • 1
    The sentence appears to be taken from some story. And it's customary to use the definite article when the referent is known or implied in the storyline. Also note that water here is a synecdoche for a supply of water, a faucet for example.
    – user126190
    Commented Dec 23, 2020 at 11:52
  • Merriam-Webster gives one meaning of water as "water supply", example "threatened to turn off the water". You're referring to the only water supply in the room so you use the definite article, just as you would say "he walked on the floor", "he shut the door", etc. merriam-webster.com/dictionary/water
    – Stuart F
    Commented Dec 23, 2020 at 12:08
  • Familiar or regular places of use or visit. Visited the toilet, hit the road, remembered the Lord.
    – Narasimham
    Commented Dec 23, 2020 at 12:46

2 Answers 2


For both instances of "the", you use it when you are referring to something specific - i.e. Nick is going into a specific and unique bathroom (for example, in a particular park), not just any bathroom.

The second one gets a little more complicated, but you use "the" because you are referring to a specific tap inside the specific bathroom - in this case, the water (tap) cannot refer to anything else, as it is definitely housed within the bathroom you are talking about.


As a rule of thumb, "the" is used with some kinds of rather general expressions referring to our physical environment or familiar things that are part of everybody's lives--the weather, the bus, etc.

In your sentence, the definite article "the" is used for bathroom because it is a familiar place for everybody.

In the case of "water," it does not mean the clear liquid we use when washing our hands, but figuratively a supply of water, or more specifically a faucet. So "the water" here practically refers to the only faucet in the bathroom.

You must log in to answer this question.

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