Most of the time, the is just a definite article, required by the rules of English grammar. When given special emphasis in speech, however, it becomes a sort of superlative.

Compare these sentences:
"Microsoft is a source of great suffering in the world."
"Microsoft is the source of great suffering in the world."

Grammatically, you're saying that it is the only source of great suffering in the world, but in speech, the word the can be given special emphasis. It's not just "thuh source", it's "THEE source".

The (?), v. i.

See Thee.

[Obs.]

Chaucer. Milton.

 

© Webster 1913.


The (&th;&emac;, when emphatic or alone; &th;&esl;, obscure before a vowel; &th;e, obscure before a consonant; 37), definite article. [AS. [eth]e, a later form for earlier nom. sing. masc. s�xc7;, formed under the influence of the oblique cases. See That, pron.]

A word placed before nouns to limit or individualize their meaning.

The was originally a demonstrative pronoun, being a weakened form of that. When placed before adjectives and participles, it converts them into abstract nouns; as, the sublime and the beautiful. Burke. The is used regularly before many proper names, as of rivers, oceans, ships, etc.; as, the Nile, the Atlantic, the Great Eastern, the West Indies, The Hague. The with an epithet or ordinal number often follows a proper name; as, Alexander the Great; Napoleon the Third. The may be employed to individualize a particular kind or species; as, the grasshopper shall be a burden. Eccl. xii. 5.

 

© Webster 1913.


The, adv. [AS. [eth]�xc7;, [eth]�xdf;, instrumental case of s�xc7;, seo, [eth]aet, the definite article. See 2d The.]

By that; by how much; by so much; on that account; -- used before comparatives; as, the longer we continue in sin, the more difficult it is to reform.

"Yet not the more cease I."

Milton.

So much the rather thou, Celestial Light, Shine inward, and the mind through all her powers Irradiate. Milton.

 

© Webster 1913.

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