English as a Second Language/The



Look at these example sentences:

1. Both parents have custody of the child.

2. Control of access to the Internet will be a major project for the computer industry.

3. Companies in Canada pay very high taxes.

4. Students who memorize most of the rules have less trouble understanding and using the articles.

According to the rule, "The" is used before a noun made definite by the addition of a phrase or clause. Like “the boy that I met” and “the girl in blue”. But the examples above do not follow this rule! I very much need to know THE REASON WHY “the” is not used before “custody” (1), before “control” (2) – these two sentences have the “of-construction” which necessitates the use of “the” - before “companies” (3) and before “students” (4).

Please help me end up my problem with “the”. I appreciate long explanation.

Thanks and best regards,

There are many rules for using "the".  I have included a link at the end of my answer.

In your first sentence "custody" isn't a countable noun, so it doesn't need a determiner.  The same is true of "control" in the second sentence.

Some other non-countable nouns: Islam.  We wouldn't say, "The Islam is the world's fastest growing religion."  But you CAN say, "THE religion of Islam is the world's fastest growing religion," because religion is a countable noun and we are referring to a specific religion.

In the third sentence "companies" is countable, but since the statement is a generalization it is understood that it is ALL of the companies in Canada that pay high taxes.  It would sound a little awkward to say "the companies" unless they were previously referred to.  You can say "All of the companies in Canada pay high taxes" if you want to emphasize that every single company pays high taxes.  Otherwise, generalizations don't need the word "the" before the countable noun.

The fourth sentence is also a generalization, implying that it is not "some" of the students, or "a few of the students", but all (or the vast majority) of the students who memorize the rules have less trouble.

Here is a website that you may find helpful:


I hope this helps and feel free to ask more questions :)


English as a Second Language

All Answers

Answers by Expert:

Ask Experts




I can answer any question about the English language or US culture for non-native English speakers. I will not answer homework questions.


Native English speaker, experience teaching English to ELLs.

Bachelor's Degree, Seattle University

©2016 About.com. All rights reserved.