David Recine

Review of English Determiners: “The”

“The” is a tiny word that creates big problems for a lot of ESL students. This determiner is a bit trickier than “a” and “an.” Today, we’ll review “the.” A brief overview of the rules for “the” in English appears in the Magoosh TOEFL Blog post “The Amazing ‘The’.”

The activity below is directly connected to the information in “The Amazing ‘The’.” So be sure to have that original blog post open as you do today’s grammar exercise.

Activity: The rules for using “the” in English

Instructions: Each sentence below uses “the.” Explain the reason why “the” is used in each sentence, based on the rules listed in this blog post. If “the” appears in a sentence more than once, every instance of “the” will be based on a single rule from the original blog post I just linked. The first three have been completed for you.

Practice for your TOEFL exam with Magoosh.

review english determiners the

    1. The car is a machine of great convenience, but also of great expense.
      Reason for using “the”: To make a general statement about a group of things, specifically cars.
      Editor’s note: This answer is based on Rule 6 of my original post.
    2. This is the last piece of chocolate we have.
      Reason for using “the”: To indicate that an individual thing is one-of-a-kind and special.
      Editor’s note: This answer is based on Rule 2 of my original post.
    3. I want to eat the slightly bigger banana, not one of the smaller ones.
      Reason for using “the”: To distinguish between more than one similar item.
      Editor’s note: This is based on Rule 3 of my original post.
    4. The Andes mountains are a high mountain range in Peru.
      Reason for using “the”: 

english determiners the

  1. The first person to step onto the moon was Neil Armstrong.
    Reason for using “the”: 
  2. Your son is climbing the tree again! Remember what happened the last time he did that?
    Reason for using “the”: 
  3. The black widow spider is highly poisonous.
    Reason for using “the”: 
  4. The rain that fell today isn’t as heavy as the rain that fell yesterday.
    Reason for using “the”: 
  5. The back door of my house just fell off.
    Reason for using “the”: 
  6. This house was owned by Abraham Lincoln; yes the Abraham Lincoln, America’s 16th president.
    Reason for using “the”:

Notes on the answers:

For many of the sentences in this activity, it’s possible to apply more than one of the rules listed in “The Amazing ‘The.’” If you want to really challenge yourself in this activity, try to list every possible rule that might apply to a given sentence.




  • David Recine

    David is a Test Prep Expert for Magoosh TOEFL and IELTS. Additionally, he’s helped students with TOEIC, PET, FCE, BULATS, Eiken, SAT, ACT, GRE, and GMAT. David has a BS from the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire and an MA from the University of Wisconsin-River Falls. His work at Magoosh has been cited in many scholarly articles, his Master’s Thesis is featured on the Reading with Pictures website, and he’s presented at the WITESOL (link to PDF) and NAFSA conferences. David has taught K-12 ESL in South Korea as well as undergraduate English and MBA-level business English at American universities. He has also trained English teachers in America, Italy, and Peru. Come join David and the Magoosh team on Youtube, Facebook, and Instagram, or connect with him via LinkedIn!

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