The definite article

by Evanna January 10, 2016
English School Students and a globe

…and a little geography!

The articles in English are three small words but they are three troublesome words for anyone learning English grammar! All language learners can have difficulty with these words from the moment they start in beginner English classes right up to Intermediate and Advanced English classes.

So, rather than have you feel completely cheesed off we thought it might be nice if we gave you a little online help with the articles. We hope that you can use the English grammar that you learn online here to improve your spoken and written English.

The articles in English have many rules and different uses. For this reason our blog this week looks at one use of the definite article. We would advise that anyone wanting to master these slippery words should do so one step at a time.

We know that articles can often drive English language learners round the bend. We hope that our English language and grammar blog this week will help you to learn one use of the definite article off by heart and that by the end of today’s blog you will be feeling a little cheered up!

What are the articles?

The articles in English are known as the definite and indefinite articles. The definite article is the word the. The indefinite articles are the words a and an.

Articles define a noun as specific (definite) or unspecific (indefinite).

When do we use the definite article ‘the’?

The definite article has many uses. One of its uses is to describe geographical features. English grammar uses the definite article in front of some geographical names but not others. Read our paragraph about Irish geography and practice your use of the definite article (the) while learning some facts about Ireland to impress your Irish friends with!!

A litte about Ireland for students who are learning English in Ireland!

Ireland is situated on the north-eastern edges of the Atlantic ocean and on the north-western edge of Europe. The island is divided into four regions (or provinces). These regions are called Leinster, Munster, Connaught and Ulster. Each region has it’s own unique flag.

The highest sea cliffs in Ireland are not the Cliffs of Moher! The highest sea cliffs are found on Achill Island in County Mayo in the north-west of Ireland. At over 600 metres, these cliffs are over double the height of the cliffs of Moher. However, these cliffs are not the highest point in Ireland.

The highest mountain is found in the south-west of Ireland. Carrantouhill is found in County Kerry. This is Ireland’s highest mountain. It is 1050 metres above sea level. Carrantouhill is part of a mountain range called the Macgillycuddy Reeks mountain range.

Achill Island is the largest island off the coast of Ireland. It is situated off the west coast of Ireland and is attached to the mainland by a bridge. Achill island has a population of 2,700 people and is 148 km2. It is famous for it’s natural beauty and the main industry on the island is tourism.

The longest river in Ireland is called the Shannon. It is 360 kilometres long. It flows through eleven counties and divides the country into the east and the west. There are several large lakes on the river Shannon. These include large lakes called Lough Allen and Lough Derg. The river Shannon flows into the Atlantic Ocean in County Limerick.

The largest lake in Ireland is called Lough Neagh. This lake is found in the centre of Northern Ireland. It measures over 300 square kilometres and has enough water to fill 7 million swimming pools. Lough Neagh provides Belfast with most of its water.

The biggest forest in Ireland is called the Silvermines forest. It is located in County Tipperary and is 250 hectares in size.

Dublin is the capital of Ireland. It is situated in the east of Ireland. It is beside the Irish Sea and is along the coast of Dublin Bay. The Dublin mountains are found south of the capital. The river Liffey flows through Dublin city centre into Dublin Bay. O’Connell Street is one of the main streets in Dublin and Grafton Street and Henry Street are very popular streets for shopping.

Rules for using the definite article to speak about geographical features:

We use the definite article for:

    • rivers, oceans, seas (e.g. the River Shannon, the River Liffey, the Atlantic Ocean, the Irish Sea)
    • mountain ranges (e.g. the Macgillycuddy Reeks, the Dublin Mountains)
    • points on the globe (e.g. the north, the south, the east, the west etc.)
    • geographical areas (e.g. the West of Europe)
    • forests (e.g. the Silvermines forest)
    • deserts (eg. The Ghobi Desert)
    • bays, where the term bay comes first (e.g. the Bay of Fundy, the Bay of Bengal)
    • gulfs and peninsulas (e.g. the Persian Gulf, the Arabian Peninsula)

We do not use the definite article for:

    • most countries or territories (Ireland, Leinster etc.)
    • towns, cities or states (Dublin)
    • streets (O’Connell Street, Grafton Street)
    • lakes (e.g. Lough Neagh)
    • bays, where the term bay comes after the name (e.g. Dublin Bay)
    • individual mountains (e.g. Carrantouhill)
    • continents (e.g. Europe)
    • islands (e.g. Achill Island, Ireland)

Test your geography – and practice your use of the definite article!

[WpProQuiz 2]

Idioms practice

Cheesed off: To feel angry/ disgusted

Do something one step at a time: do something slowly and gradually

Go round the bend: go crazy / lose your sanity

Learn something off by heart: learn/ know something so that you remember it perfectly

Phrasal Verbs practice

Cheer up: When you’re feeling sad, and then you start to feel happy again, you’re starting to cheer up. This phrasal verb is often used to encourage other people to have a more positive attitude.

Fill in the gaps with the idioms and phrasal verbs you have learned:

[WpProQuiz 1]

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