Lindsay McMahon
"The English Adventurer"

Today, in #1 of the Top 15 Fixes series, we discuss the most common article in the English language, ‘the’!


Use of the definite article ‘the’ can be confusing.  However, there are some rules that can help you get it right most of the time.


The first requires that you consider whether the focus is on something specific, or something more general.

When focused on specific items, use ‘the’.  If you’re sitting at a table, talking about the food that is actually in front of you, you might say:

  • “Do you like the turkey?”
  • “Yes, the turkey is great!”
  • “Could you please pass the salt?”

When focused on more general terms, you don’t use ‘the’.  If you’re discussing food in general, you might say:

  • “Do you like turkey?”
  • “Have you tried pumpkin pie?”
  • “Cranberries are too tart for me.”


Geographical terms can also be tricky for ‘the’.  In most cases, large, well-known geographic places will have ‘the’: the continent, the Pacific Ocean, the moon.

With specific countries, a country’s formal name might require ‘the,’ while a less formal name might not: the United States, the Russian Federation; America, Russia.



Lindsay and Michelle are sitting next to each other at Thanksgiving dinner.

Lindsay: Can you pass the rolls, please?

Michelle: Sure! Do you have butter?

Lindsay: No, I don’t. Can you pass me the butter as well?

Michelle: No problem. How are the rolls? I haven’t tried them yet.

Lindsay: Delicious! These are homemade, but the ones I brought are from the store.

Michelle: That’s funny that you aren’t eating the rolls you brought.

Lindsay: I didn’t have time to make them!

Michelle: I did the same thing. I was asked to bring cranberry sauce, and the sauce I brought is store-bought.

Lindsay: I don’t think I’ve ever tried homemade cranberry sauce!

Michelle: It’s delicious, but it takes a long time to make! I had to make stuffing as well, so I couldn’t do both.

Lindsay: Oh, I’ll have to try it! Can you pass me the stuffing?

Michelle: It’s the same recipe I used last year, and everyone seemed to like it. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!


Other Entries in the 15 Fixes Series:


What have you found difficult about ‘the’?

Tell us all about it in the comments section below!

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