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What Part of Speech is “The”? | With Examples

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We’ll explain what part of speech the word “the” falls under and show you how to use it correctly.

What part of speech is the word the?

The can function as a definite article (which is a type of determiner) and as an adverb. 

As the definite article, the is used to refer to a specific noun (e.g., “the horse”). As an adverb, the has a few different meanings, including  “beyond all others” (e.g., “he likes his the best”).

Examples of “the” as the definite article

Examples of “the” as an adverb

The book I want to buy is on sale. The more, the merrier.
Please close the door on your way out. The higher up you go, the colder it gets.
The kids are playing in the park. The more you practice, the better you get.

Using the as the definite article

The is an article, which is a type of determiner (i.e., a type of word that provides additional information about a noun). More precisely, the is the definite article, meaning it refers to specific nouns

Although the helps specify nouns when used as a definite article, there are several ways it can be used, as shown in the examples below. 

Different functions of “the” as a definite article

Example sentences

Used to refer to a specific noun that has already been specified in previous context I finally got around to reading the book you recommended.
Used to refer to a unique noun or something that is one of a kind We sat outside and stared at the moon all night.
Used before times and dates to indicate specific occasions We are planning to go to a concert on the ninth of May.
Used before some parts of the body to denote possession How’s the leg treating you today?
Used to generally refer to subjects and branches of human endeavor She studied the piano religiously when she was a child and into adulthood.
Used before a proper name to indicate distinctive qualities of a person or thing The Lauren I know loves to spend time with her friends and family.
Used before the plural form of a surname to refer to all the family members We got together with the Thompsons on Friday night for dinner.
Used before a word to indicate that it’s the best of its kind After a relaxing day at the beach, I thought to myself, “this is the life.”
Used before superlatives and ordinal numbers to indicate rank or order She is the greatest singer of our generation.
Used before singular adjectives functioning as nouns to indicate abstract concepts My younger cousin always sees the good in people.
Used before a noun to refer to it as a whole group I’m under the impression that the elite are only looking out for themselves.

It’s important to note that some grammar authorities categorize “determiners” as a distinct part of speech, while others group them with “adjectives.”

Using the as an adverb

The can also function as an adverb, which is a type of word that modifies verbs, adjectives, other adverbs, clauses, and complete sentences.

Different functions of “the” as an adverb

Example sentences

Used to emphasize the degree of comparison This is the best analysis of the film I’ve read so far.
Used to describe which degree something is used The faster you start, the sooner you’ll be able to go outside and play.
Used to confirm or agree about the degree to which something is true The faster you start, the sooner you’ll be able to go outside and play.
Used to indicate a degree that is greater than all others Of all the free samples he tried, he liked the vanilla ice cream the most.

Do you want to improve your business emails, learn the difference between commonly confused words, or strengthen your understanding of English grammar? Check out the articles below!


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