Wondering why you write a sentence like this, with the word the:

The person went to the store.

La persona fue a la tienda.

I don't understand why that extra word needs to be there. It could just say:

Person went to store.

Persona fue a tienda.

For that matter, why the word to even needs to be there.

Person went store.

Wondering why that word is in English, and if all languages have this feature or some of them do it like the last example. Not sure exactly the purpose the serves, and if it is used in every language.

For example, we say:

I play sports.

But we don't say:

I play the sports.

But we say:

I throw the ball.


I throw ball.

I don't understand.

I don't understand why we don't put the in front of verbs either.

The person the go the past the store.

The person the went the store.

From Wikipedia it sounds like Chinese doesn't use "definiteness" or determiners like the. I'd be interested to know what their sentence equivalents look like for above, translated to English.

Some other examples are:

Man is human.

You don't use the there, maybe because it's a concept rather than an instance of a specific person.

The man is human.

That is for "the person you are thinking about" I think.

Sky is blue.

You can say that in English to refer to the sky, since there is only one we really are probably referring to. Even though there's probably lots of other "skies" in the universe.

You don't say this:

The Amari is here.

You say:

Amari is here.

But there could be many Amaris everyone knows, so I don't see why we don't use the there as well.

Here are some other weird examples:

+ Amari is in the house.
- Amari is in house.
+ Amari is here.
- Amari is the here.

But refer to a place, a specific place. But one uses the and the other doesn't.

+ Amari got here the moment we left.
- Amari got here moment we left.
+ Amari got here just now.
- Amari got here just the now.


+ They referenced Man.
- They referenced the Man.
+ They referenced the concept of Man.
- They referenced concept of Man.
+ They referenced StackOverflow.
- They referenced the StackOverflow.

The Man is a concept. But a concept is also a concept. We say the concept, but Man.

If you are joking you can say:

The Amari is here.

And everyone knows who you are talking about. Or even:

Humanity is here.

Referencing some person as a joke. Basically I don't see the exact rules on how to use the, and why it's necessary.

  • It marks definiteness.
    – curiousdannii
    Sep 1 '18 at 1:26
  • I don't understand what definiteness means after reading that.
    – Lance
    Sep 1 '18 at 4:24
  • 8
    Please slow down a little, and learn to write a tighter question. You're a bit all over the place. Do you want to understand the category of definiteness better? We could recommend some textbooks. Do you want to understand how definiteness works in English? That should be asked at English Language & Usage or English Language Learners. Do you want to know how definiteness works with proper nouns? Again, probably should be asked at one of those sites. Do you want to know how Chinese handles definiteness? That should be asked at Chinese Language.
    – curiousdannii
    Sep 1 '18 at 6:44
  • 1
    Ok I will ask some on the English website. Thank you. I basically just don't understand all these various uses of "the" I can think of, so just jotted them down.
    – Lance
    Sep 1 '18 at 6:53
  • 2
    I'd recommend getting a good grasp on the basic normal use of the before getting distracted by the edge cases.
    – curiousdannii
    Sep 1 '18 at 7:03

As A. M. Bittlingmayer pointed out, this concept is far from universal: languages like Russian, Turkish, Latin, and Swahili have no articles at all.

Even in languages that have definite articles (some equivalent to "the"), how they're used varies widely. French uses the definite article for abstract concepts, where English wouldn't: la mort = literally "the death", but English "death". Ancient Greek uses the definite article for people's names, but only when the person is considered definite: Sōkratēs = "someone named Socrates", but ho Sōkratēs, literally "the Socrates", means "the specific person named Socrates, you know who I'm talking about". In English we leave off the article on "God" to refer to the single Abrahamic deity (while "the god" would be one of many), while in Ancient Greek it's the opposite: theos on its own would mean one of many gods, while ho Theos (literally "the God") means YHWH in particular.

As a side note, in languages that don't have articles, the definite article tends to arise from a demonstrative (French le/la < Latin ille/illa "that"), while the indefinite article tends to arise from a word for "one" (German ein) or "some/something" (Ancient Greek tís). There's not always a clear line between these categories: "one" can be used somewhat like "a" in English, and "that" somewhat like "the".


Person went to store.

In Russian Человек пошел в магазин, in Turkish Kişi mağazaya gitti.

Wondering why that word is in English, and if all languages have this feature or some of them do it like the last example.


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