Around 30-36 months of age, typically developing children start to use the word “the” before objects and people. “The” is what’s known as a “definite article”. In English, it’s used four main ways:
- before a particular or definite object, e.g. “the chair” or “the bus”;
- when there is only one object or person in the world, e.g. “the Queen of England” or “the President of the United States” or “the Amazon River” or “the Pacific Ocean”;
- before superlatives, e.g. “the best ride” or “the highest mountain” or the “tallest boy”; and
- when referring to a class of people, animals or objects, e.g. “the Ancient Egyptians”, “the frog [is an amphibian]”, “the gum tree [is native to Australia]”, or “the rich get richer”.
Some people – including many people who speak English as a second language and people with language disorders – have difficulty using “the” appropriately. “The” is often unstressed in sentences, making it hard for some people to pick up. Some young people omit “the” because they don’t think it adds any content to sentences (i.e. that you can leave it out without affecting the meaning of the sentence). However, leaving out “the” can make people’s speech sound less mature or educated – and even less intelligent – than they truly are. It can also throw off the rhythm of spoken English, making it harder for listeners to understand what the person is saying.
This 22-page no-prep pack is designed to provide lots of structured practice for people who need it. We have included both pictures and orthography (written words) to help support people of all ages. Toward the end, we’ve embedded some general knowledge to help kick start conversations!