The before a noun shows that what is referred to is already known to the speaker, listener, writer and/or reader (it is the definite article):
The makes a noun specific.
The speaker is not asking about any one specific ice rink but is asking whether they have been to any ice rink (an doesn’t refer to a specific ice rink)
The speaker and listener know the ice rink which is being referred to (e.g. the one in their town/the local one). The makes the noun ice rink specific.
Specific (‘the one you and I know’)
When do we use a and when do we use an?
In speaking, we use a /ə/ before a consonant sound:
Some words that begin with a vowel letter in writing have a consonant sound:
/ə ju:ˈnaɪtɪd …/ /ə ju:niˈvɜ:sɪti/ /ə wʌn …/
We use an /ən/ before a vowel sound:
Some words that begin with a consonant letter in writing have a vowel sound:
How do we pronounce the?
We pronounce the in two ways depending on whether the sound which comes after the is a vowel or a consonant:
/ði:/ before vowel sounds
/ðə/ before consonant sounds
When do we use articles?
A/an and the with types of nouns
We only use a/an with singular countable nouns:
We can use the with singular and plural countable nouns:
We don’t use a/an before uncountable nouns:
We can use the before uncountable nouns when they refer to a specific example:
To talk about an individual quantity or more than one quantity of an uncountable noun, we use expressions such as a bit of, a piece of or a [specific measure] of:
We only use the with general plural nouns when we are referring to a specific set within a general class of people or things.
I mean all books in general.
I mean specific books (that you and I know).
We can make general nouns specific by using an article and adding more information after the noun.
Inventions, musical instruments and cultural institutions
When we talk in general about inventions, musical instruments or cultural institutions (such as the cinema, the theatre, the circus, the opera, the ballet), we often use the:
No article before determiners (any, some, my, this)
We don’t use an article with other words that specify a noun (determiner), e.g. any, some, my, her, this, that:
The with things that are universally known
We use the with things known to everyone (the sun, the stars, the moon, the earth, the planet) because they are a part of our physical environment or part of the natural world:
The with everyday things
We use the with things that we know as part of our daily lives. The does not refer to particular things in this context.
Jobs and professions
When we talk about a person’s job, we use a:
We use the with mountain ranges and some mountains (the Alps, the Eiger), groups of islands (the West Indies), rivers (the Danube), deserts (the Gobi Desert), seas (the Black Sea), geographical regions or habitats (the Amazon rainforest), motorways (the M42), the names of some countries (the People’s Republic of China).
We don’t usually use articles with individual mountains or lakes when the name includes Mount or Lake: Mount Fuji, Lake Victoria. We don’t use articles with continents (Asia), countries (Romania), towns (Edinburgh), and streets (Lombard Street).
The with groups within society
When we talk about particular groups or people within society, we use the + adjective:
The with dates
When we say a specific date, we use the, but when we write it, we don’t use the:
When we talk about months, we don’t use the:
When we talk about seasons in general, we can use either in or in the. In without the is often used in more formal or literary contexts:
When we talk about a specific season, we use the:
The with Internet, radio and newspaper but mostly not with TV
The with go to, be at, be in hospital, school, prison
When we talk about the activity that happens in a building rather than about the building itself, we don’t use the.
We don’t use the with bed when we go there to sleep:
We don’t use the before work when we talk about the place where we do our job:
We don’t use the to refer to an individual’s behaviour or to parts of an individual’s body:
This, that and articles
We can use this instead of a/an or the, and these instead of zero article or some when we tell stories and jokes to create a sense of the present:
[beginning of a joke]
In informal speaking, we can use that as an alternative to the in stories when we refer to something familiar or known to the listener. That highlights the fact that the thing being referred to is known to the speaker and listener:
What is the rule for using the?
The definite article (the) is used before a noun to indicate that the identity of the noun is known to the reader. The indefinite article (a, an) is used before a noun that is general or when its identity is not known.
Where Are We use the?
“The” is typically used in accompaniment with any noun with a specific meaning, or a noun referring to a single thing. The important distinction is between countable and non-countable nouns: if the noun is something that can't be counted or something singular, then use “the”, if it can be counted, then us “a” or “an”.
When can I not use the?
Note that plural nouns take the article the when they are used in a particular sense. We do not use articles before the names of countries, people, continents, cities, rivers and lakes. India is a democratic country. (NOT The India …)
When did use the?
The is the definite article. The definite article is used with singular and plural nouns. It is used both with countable nouns and uncountable nouns: to make definite or specific reference to a person or a thing that has already been referred to.