Before uncountable nouns
We do not use articles before uncountable and abstract nouns used in a general sense.
- Honey is sweet. (NOT The honey is sweet.)
- Sugar is bad for your teeth.
- Wisdom is better than riches.
- Virtue is its own reward.
Note that uncountable nouns take the article the when used in a particular sense.
- Would you pass the sugar? (= the sugar on the table)
Before plural countable nouns
We do not use articles before plural countable nouns used in a general sense.
- Children usually rush about.
- Computers are useful machines.
Note that plural nouns take the article the when they are used in a particular sense.
- Where are the children? (Which children? Our children)
Before proper nouns
We do not use articles before the names of countries, people, continents, cities, rivers and lakes.
- India is a democratic country. (NOT The India …)
- Paris is the capital of France. (NOT The Paris …)
Before the names of meals
We do not use articles before the names of meals.
- Mother is cooking lunch.
- Dinner is ready.
We use a when there is an adjective before breakfast, lunch, dinner etc. We use the when we are talking about a particular meal.
- I had a late dinner yesterday.
- The lunch we had at the restaurant was very good.
We do not use articles before the names of languages.
- Can you speak English? (NOT Can you speak the English?)
- They speak French at home.
Before school, college, university, church, bed, hospital, prison etc.
- His dad is still in hospital.
- We learned English at school.
- He is at university.
The is used before these words when the reference is to the building or object rather than to the normal activity that goes on there.
- I met her at the church. (Here the reference is to the building and not to the activity that is going on there.)
- I went to the hospital to see my friend.