How to Use the Definite Article with Familiar Places and Spaces

How to Use the Definite Article with Familiar Places and Spaces

Using articles can be challenging when you are learning English, even if you are an advanced English student!

If your native language doesn’t have articles, you may forget to use them from time to time, or you may be confused by the way English uses the definite and indefinite articles because it’s different than your mother tongue.

Even still, getting their usage right is important for sounding more like a native speaker, and that’s why I’ve listed using articles accurately as one of my top tips for sounding natural in English.

One way that you can improve your use of articles quickly is to understand how to use the definite article “the” with familiar places and spaces.

I usually describe this use of “the” as the “places in a town” rule.

We use “the” with the places we visit frequently as part of our daily or weekly routine, places where we know we can get certain things done or accomplish tasks.

If you live in a city, there may be more than one of these places near you; if you live in a huge city like New York or Los Angeles, Sao Paulo or Tokyo, there are probably hundreds if not thousands of banks, grocery stores, pharmacies, and gas station!

However, you should still use the definite article “the” with these places because you have a specific location in mind when you are describing it to the person you are talking to.

We use “the” plus the place to describe both the place as well as our routine action or goal for going there.

When I say, “I’m going to the post office after work,” the person listening to me knows that I’m not just visiting the post office, they know that I am planning on mailing a letter or package or buying some stamps.

It may not be important for the other person to know exactly what I plan to do there, but both of us know that I’m going to the post office to do something specific.

Learning to use the definite article with these places is a good way to be more concise in English.

Instead of saying, “I am planning on buying some groceries at the grocery store tonight,” you can simply say, “I’m going to the grocery store tonight.”

The person listening to you will understand what you plan to do there – it’s a familiar routine.

Your Turn

There are a number of examples of how to use this grammar construction in the mini lesson infographic above.

After reviewing them, leave a comment mentioning something you plan to do this week, or some place you recently went!

Want to use grammar more naturally? Click here to explore my other resources on using grammar structures like a native speaker.

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