When to use 'the' with nouns

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 10 March, 2005, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 10 March, 2005, 12:00am

David and Victoria are in the kitchen preparing a meal. Some friends are coming round for dinner tonight.

For dessert, they have decided to make a delicious, healthy fruit salad. Victoria asks: 'Will you pass me the mangoes, David, please?' David picks up the fruit and says: 'Remember, Mark doesn't like mangoes. We won't put any in the salad. We'll put more papaya instead.'

Pass me the mangoes. Mark doesn't like mangoes. Why do we need 'the' in the first sentence but not in the second? We are talking about the same mangoes, so why is the construction different?

The explanation is simple and easy to remember. We do not use 'the' with plural nouns (mangoes, bananas, houses) or uncountable nouns (wine, water, money) to talk about the object in general. We need 'the' in front of the noun if we are talking about a particular object or set of objects.

Pass me THE mangoes. (the particular mangoes that we want). Mangoes are delicious. (mangoes in general). I hate cats. (cats in general) I hate the cats that my grandma has. (a particular group of cats)

Answers: G: 1, 3, 5, 7, 8, 9, 12; P: 2, 4, 6, 10, 11; the: 12, 13, 15, 17, 21, 22; xxx: 11, 14, 16, 18-20


Put either the letter G (general) or the letter P (particular) after each of these sentences. Is the main noun in the sentence referring to a general or a particular idea? 1. Seafood is a delicious and healthy thing to include in your diet. 2. The fish in the supermarket did not look fresh this morning. 3. I have never been to a pop concert. I hate pop music. 4. Eddie used to work for the theatre in his

neighbourhood when he was in England. 5. Diana likes golf and tennis but she never plays either. 6. I thought the film we saw last night was really good. 7. My brother is obsessed with computer games. 8. Tommy is really into heavy metal music. 9. Snakes are dangerous. 10. Who are the people waiting outside the office? What do they want? 11. I like the colours on that T-shirt. I'm going to buy it. 12. I love hiking at weekends. It helps me to relax. , Once you have sorted the 'general' from the 'particular', you will understand when to miss out 'the' before a noun.


Which is the correct thing to say in these sentences? Should you use 'the' or 'xxx' (nothing)? 11. I have stopped eating (the/xxx) fast food. I don't think it's good for your health. 12. I have heard that (the/xxx) fast-food restaurants in London are really expensive. 13. I know (the/xxx) people in that car. They used to live next door to us. 14. Health experts say that (the/xxx) salt is bad for you. 15. Look at (the/xxx) kids in this photograph. They are having a great time.

16. Do you like (the/xxx) wine? 17. I prefer (the/xxx) clothes in that shop. They are better. 18. I can't stand (the/xxx) basketball. It is a very boring game. game to play. 19. What do you think of (the/xxx) western pop music? 20. My mother hates (the/xxx) housework. She says we need a maid. 21. I like (the/xxx) songs that Sammi sings. The words are good. 22. Where are (the/xxx) mangoes? I'm going to make a fruit salad.