From Middle English the, from Old English þē (“the, that”, demonstrative pronoun), a late variant of sē. Originally masculine nominative, in Middle English it superseded all previous Old English forms (sē, sēo, þæt, þā), from Proto-Germanic *sa, from Proto-Indo-European *só. Cognate with Saterland Frisian die (“the”), West Frisian de (“the”), Dutch de (“the”), German Low German de (“the”), German der (“the”), Danish de (“the”), Swedish de (“the”), Icelandic sá (“the”).
- Definite grammatical article that implies necessarily that an entity it articulates is presupposed; something already mentioned, or completely specified later in that same sentence, or assumed already completely specified. [from 10th c.]
- Used before a noun modified by a restrictive relative clause, indicating that the noun refers to a single referent defined by the relative clause.
- Used before an object considered to be unique, or of which there is only one at a time. [from 10th c.]
- Used before a superlative or an ordinal number modifying a noun, to indicate that the noun refers to a single item.
- Added to a superlative or an ordinal number to make it into a substantive. [from 9th c.]
- Introducing a singular term to be taken generically: preceding a name of something standing for a whole class. [from 9th c.]
- Used before an adjective, indicating all things (especially persons) described by that adjective. [from 9th c.]
- Used to indicate a certain example of (a noun) which is usually of most concern or most common or familiar. [from 12th c.]
- Used before a body part (especially of someone previously mentioned), as an alternative to a possessive pronoun. [from 12th c.]
- When stressed, indicates that it describes an object which is considered to be best or exclusively worthy of attention. [from 18th c.]
From Middle English the, thy, thi, from Old English þȳ (“by that, after that, whereby”), originally the instrumental case of the demonstratives sē (masculine) and þæt (neuter). Cognate with Dutch des te ("the, the more"), German desto ("the, all the more"), Norwegian fordi ("because"), Icelandic því (“the; because”), Faroese tí, Swedish ty.
the (not comparable)
- With a comparative or with more and a verb phrase, establishes a correlation with one or more other such comparatives.
- With a comparative, and often with for it, indicates a result more like said comparative. This can be negated with none. See none the.