Using “The” in Business English

Posted on December 18, 2013

 

By Emily Stallard, Owner and Trainer at Orchid English

 

Do you wonder when to use the definite article “the” and when to leave it out? You’re not alone. I have put the following list together as a quick guide to using “the” in business English.

Articles can be a real problem for people learning English. This is because:

  • There are a lot of different rules,
  • Sometimes you can use “the” or not use it without a difference in meaning, and
  • Other times it’s just a question of nuance

 

In my experience, students learning English with an Asian language background tend to use too few articles overall.  Students with a European language background such as French or Italian students will tend to use too many articles overall, or use them in the wrong place.

 

Countries

Political unions such as states or kingdoms

  • The United Kingdom
  • The United States
  • The United Arab Emirates

 

Republics need “the”, if you mention the republic

  • Ireland
  • The Republic of Ireland
  • China
  • The People’s Republic of China

 

Countries which have a plural name

  • The Philippines
  • The Netherlands

 

Public Organisations

  • The BBC
  • The NHS
  • The council
  • The government

 

HMRC is an organisation but does not need an article because it includes a possessive in the name: Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs. If you wanted to describe HMRC you would have to use an article in: “The tax office”. Companies do not usually take “the”, so “I work for Orchid English” not “I work for the Orchid English”, “He works for Toyota” not “He works for the Toyota”.

 

Superlatives

  • The most effective strategy
  • The best way forward
  • The worst method we have tried

 

Ordinal Numbers

In spoken British English, for dates:

  • We say “Friday the 20th of December” but write “Friday 20th December”

In both British and American English:

  • The fifth conference of this year

 

So that was a selection of some useful rules on using “the” in business English. If you just remember one thing from this blog post, remember whether to use “the” for the country you’re living in! We hear lots of people say “I work in UK” or “My client is in US“. Now you know you need to say “The UK” and “The US”.  Learn more about using “the” in country names here.

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