What Part of Speech Is the Word The



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When you start breaking it down, the English language is pretty complicated—especially if you’re trying to learn it from scratch! One of the most important English words to understand is

the.


But what part of speech is the word

the,

and when should it be used in a sentence?

Is the word

the

a preposition? Is

the

a pronoun? Or is the word

the

considered a different part of speech?

To help you learn exactly how the word

the

works in the English language, we’re going to do the following in this article:

  • Answer the question, “What part of speech is

    the

    ?”
  • Explain how to use

    the

    correctly in sentences, with examples
  • Provide a full list of other words that are classified as the same part of speech as

    the

    in the English language

Okay, let’s get started learning about the word

the

!

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What Part of Speech Is the Word

The?


In the English language the word


the

is


classified as an article,

which is a word used to define a noun. (More on that a little later.)


But an article isn’t one of the eight parts of speech.

Articles are considered a type of adjective, so “the” is technically an adjective as well. However, “the” can also sometimes function as an adverb in certain instances, too.

In short,

the word “the” is an article that functions as both an adjective and an adverb, depending on how it’s being used

. Having said that,

the

is most commonly used as an article in the English language. So, if you were wondering, “Is

the

a pronoun, preposition, or conjunction,” the answer is no: it’s an article, adjective, and an adverb!

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While we might think of an article as a story that appears in a newspaper or website, in English grammar, articles are words that help specify nouns.


The

as an Article



So what are “articles” in the English language? Articles are words that identify nouns

in order to demonstrate whether the noun is specific or nonspecific.

Nouns

(a person, place, thing, or idea) can be identified by two different types of articles in the English language:

definite articles identify specific nouns,

and indefinite articles identify nonspecific nouns.


The word

the

is considered a definite article because it defines the meaning of a noun as one particular thing

. It’s an article that gives a noun a

definite

meaning: a definite article. Generally, definite articles are used to identify nouns that the audience already knows about. Here’s a few examples of how “the” works as a definite article:


We went to

the

rodeo on Saturday. Did you see

the

cowboy get trampled by

the

bull?

This (grisly!) sentence has three instances of “the” functioning as a definite article:

the

rodeo,

the

cowboy, and

the

bull. Notice that in each instance,

the

comes directly before the noun. That’s because it’s an article’s job to identify nouns.

In each of these three instances,


the

refers to a specific (or definite) person, place, or thing.

When the speaker says

the

rodeo, they’re talking about one specific rodeo that happened at a certain place and time. The same goes for

the

cowboy and

the

bull: these are two specific people/animals that had one kinda terrible thing happen to them!

It can be a bit easier to see how definite articles work if you see them in the same sentence as an indefinite article (

a

or

an

). This sentence makes the difference a lot more clear:



A

bat flew into

the

restaurant and made people panic.

Okay. This sentence has two articles in it:

a

and

the.

So what’s the difference? Well,

you use

a

when you’re referring to a general, non-specific person, place, or thing because its an indefinite article

. So in this case, using

a

tells us this isn’t a specific bat. It’s just a random bat from the wild that decided to go on an adventure.

Notice that in the example, the writer uses

the

to refer to the restaurant.

That’s because the event happened at a specific


time and at a specific


place.

A bat flew into one particular restaurant to cause havoc, which is why it’s referred to as

the

restaurant in the sentence.

The last thing to keep in mind is that


the

is the

only

definite article in the English language

, and it can be used with both singular and plural nouns. This is probably one reason why people make the mistake of asking, “Is

the

a pronoun?” Since articles, including

the,

define the meaning of nouns, it seems like they could also be combined with pronouns. But that’s not the case. Just remember: articles

only

modify nouns.

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Adjectives are words that help describe nouns. Because “the” can describe whether a noun is a specific object or not, “the” is also considered an adjective.


The

as an Adjective

You know now that

the

is classified as a definite article and that

the

is used to refer to a

specific

person, place, or thing.

But defining what part of speech articles are is a little bit tricky.

There are eight parts of speech in the English language: nouns, pronouns, verbs, adverbs, adjectives, prepositions, conjunctions, and interjections. The thing about these eight parts of speech in English is that they contain smaller categories of types of words and phrases in the English language. A

rticles are considered a type of determiner, which is a type of adjective.

Let’s break down how articles fall under the umbrella of “determiners,” which fall under the umbrella of adjectives. In English, the category of

“determiners” includes all words and phrases in the English language that are combined with a noun to express an aspect of what the noun is referring to.

Some examples of determiners are

the, a, an, this, that, my, their, many, few, several, each,

and

any. The

is used in front of a noun to express that the noun refers to a specific thing, right? So that’s why “the” can be considered a determiner.

And here’s how determiners—including the article

the

—can be considered adjectives.

Articles and other determiners are sometimes classified as adjectives because they describe the nouns that they precede.

Technically,

the

describes the noun it precedes by communicating specificity and directness. When you say, “the duck,” you’re describing the noun “duck” as referring to a specific duck. This is different than saying

a

duck, which could mean any one duck anywhere in the world!

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When “the” comes directly before a word that’s not a noun, then it’s operating as an adverb instead of an adjective.


The

as an Adverb



Finally, we mentioned that

the

can also be used as an adverb,

which is one of the eight main parts of speech we outlined above. Adverbs modify or describe verbs, adjectives, or other adverbs, but

never

modify nouns.

Sometimes,


the

can be used to modify adverbs or adjectives that occur in the comparative degree.

Adverbs or adjectives that compare the amounts or intensity of a feeling, state of being, or action characterizing two or more things are in the comparative degree. Sometimes

the

appears

before

these adverbs or adjectives to help convey the comparison!

Here’s an example where

the

functions as an adverb instead of an article/adjective:


Lainey believes

the

most outrageous things.

Okay. We know that when

the

is functioning as an adjective, it comes before a noun in order to clarify whether it’s specific or non-specific. In this case, however,

the

precedes the word

most,

which isn’t a noun—it’s an adjective. And since an adverb modifies an adjective, adverb, or verb, that means

the

functions as an adverb in this sentence.

We know that can be a little complicated, so let’s dig into another example together:


Giovanni’s is

the

best pizza place in Montana.

The trick to figuring out whether the article

the

is functioning as an adjective or an adverb is pretty simple: just look at the word directly after

the

and figure out its part of speech. If that word is a noun, then

the

is functioning as an adjective. If that word isn’t a noun, then

the

is functioning like an adverb.

Now, reread the second example. The word

the

comes before the word

best.

Is best a noun? No, it isn’t.

Best

is an adjective, so we know that

the

is working like an adverb in this sentence.

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How to Use

The

Correctly in Sentences

An important part of answering the question, “What part of speech is the word

the

?” includes explaining how to use

the

correctly in a sentence. Articles like

the

are some of the most common words used in the English language. So you need to know how and when to use it! And since using

the

as an adverb is less common, we’ll provide examples of how

the

can be used as an adverb as well.

Using

The

as an Article

In general, it is correct and appropriate to use

the

in front of a noun of any kind when you want to convey specificity. It’s often assumed that you use

the

to refer to a specific person, place, or thing that the person you’re speaking to will already be aware of.

Oftentimes, this shared awareness of who, what, or where “the” is referring to is created by things already said in the conversation, or by context clues in a given social situation

.

Let’s look at an example here:


Say you’re visiting a friend who just had a baby. You’re sitting in the kitchen at your friend’s house while your friend makes coffee. The baby, who has been peacefully dozing in a bassinet in the living room, begins crying. Your friend turns to you and asks, “Can you hold



the baby



while I finish doing this?”

Now, because of all of the context surrounding the social situation, you know which baby your friend is referring to when they say,

the baby.

There’s no need for further clarification, because in this case,

the

gives enough direct and specific meaning to the noun

baby

for you to know what to do!

In many cases, using

the

to define a noun requires less or no awareness of an immediate social situation

because people have a shared common knowledge of the noun that

the

is referring to.

Here are two examples:


Are you going to watch

the eclipse

tomorrow?


Did you hear what

the President

said this morning?


In the first example, the speaker is referring to a natural phenomenon that most people are aware of

—eclipses are cool and rare! When there’s going to be an eclipse, everyone knows about it. If you started a conversation with someone by saying, “Are you going to watch

the eclipse

tomorrow?” it’s pretty likely they’d know which eclipse

the

is referring to.

In the second example, if an American speaking to another American mentions what the President said, the other American is likely going to assume that

the

refers to the President of the United States. Conversely, if two Canadians said this to one another, they would likely assume they’re talking about the Canadian prime minister!

So in many situations,

using

the

before a noun gives that noun specific meaning in the context of a particular social situation

.

Using

The

as an Adverb


Now let’s look at an example of how “the” can be used as an adverb.

Take a look at this sample sentence:


The tornado warning made it all



the more likely



that the game would be canceled.

Remember how we explained that

the

can be combined with adverbs that are making a comparison of levels or amounts of something between two entities? The example above shows how

the

can be combined with an adverb in such a situation.

The

is combined with

more

and

likely

to form an adverbial phrase.

So how do you figure this out? Well, if the words immediately after

the

are adverbs, then

the

is functioning as an adverb, too!

Here’s another example of how

the

can be used as an adverb:


I had



the worst



day ever.


In this case,

the

is being combined with the adverb

worst

to compare the speaker’s day to the other days

. Compared to all the other days

ever,

this person’s was

the worst…

period

.

Some other examples of adverbs that you might see

the

combined with include

all the better, the best, the bigger, the shorter,

and

all the sooner.

One thing that can help clarify which adverbs

the

can be combined with is to check out

a list of comparative and superlative adverbs

and think about which ones

the

makes sense with!

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3 Articles in the English Language


Now that we’ve answered the question, “What part of speech is

the

?”, you know that

the

is classified as an article. To help you gain a better understanding of what articles are and how they function in the English language,

here’s a handy list of 3 words in the English language that are also categorized as articles.


Article

Type of Article

What It Does

Example Sentence
The
Definite Article
Modifies nouns by giving them a specific meaning
Please fold


the


laundry.
Do you want to go to


the


concert?
A
Indefinite Article
Modifies a noun that refers to a general idea; appears before nouns that begin with a consonant.
Do you want to go to


a


concert?
An
Indefinite Article
Modifies a noun that refers to a general idea; appears before nouns that begin with a vowel.
Do you want to go to


an


arcade?
Let’s get an


iguana.

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What’s Next?

If you’re looking for more grammar resources,

be sure to check out our guides on

every grammar rule you need to know to ace the SAT

(

or the ACT

)!

Learning more about English grammar can be really helpful when you’re studying a foreign language, too.

We highly recommend that you study a foreign language in high school—not only is it great for you, it looks great on college applications, too.

If you’re not sure which language to study,

check out this helpful article that will make your decision a lot easier.

Speaking of applying for college…

one of the most important parts of your application packet is your essay.


Check out this expert guide to writing college essays that will help you get into your dream school.