There is a similar question with a similar title, however it then focused on two specific examples. The main question is when we should use "the" before an Of-phrase.

Is "the" used for the first part or the whole phrase? for example, is it [the history ] of the internet. Or the [history of the internet ].

Some examples by searching google:

  • the International Day of the Girl Child
  • the study of Pattern Recognition
  • The Charter of the United Nations
  • More than 60 United Nations Member States have never been Members of the Security Council.

  • the Word of the Day

  • The history of the Internet
  • Transactions of the American Mathematical Society
  • Proceedings of the Royal Society
  • Types of problems and tasks

For example in

Machine learning is a subfield of computer science that evolved from the study of pattern recognition and computational learning theory in artificial intelligence.

Why "the study". Please note there is not much context for the "study" and I suspect the possessive construction has a role.

Apart from these examples, I feel in Of-phrases the domain of objects become limited, and it allows to use "the" for the noun before "of". For example you can't say "the mouse"! which mouse? but you can say "the mouse of a computer" because in the domain of a single computer, mouse is specific.

For another example we may say "The manager of a shop" (even without any context) but not "the customer of the shop" (again without any context). maybe "the customers of the shop" or maybe just "customers of the shop". "the door of the house" but not "the window of the house", because without any context we don't have one window but one door. Similarly, "the head of a human" but not "the hand of a human" (maybe the left hand of a human).

Does this analysis creditable?

  • I don't think there's any special rule for using "the" before of-phrases. It's the same principle for why we would use "the" anywhere else. Also, why do you think we couldn't say "the window of the house" or "the hand of a human"? Those are perfectly correct phrases.
    – stangdon
    Sep 29, 2016 at 11:54
  • Members is a role. About 99% of students have never been valedictorian of their class.
    – TimR
    Sep 29, 2016 at 12:44
  • 2
    Possible duplicate of "the" before of-phrases asked by the same user over a year ago. The lack of an answer back then may be due to the fact that there is no rule saying one has to use the before an of-phrase. Sep 29, 2016 at 17:41
  • 1
    @Ahmad - I think I might be starting to understand. Can you give me an example of a complete sentence? Sometimes context makes a lot of difference. Are you asking why would say "The head of a human was on the mad scientist's table" but "A human head was on the mad scientist's table"?
    – stangdon
    Sep 29, 2016 at 20:40
  • 2
    @AlanCarmack I don't believe we should close this question as a duplicate of the older one simply because this one is newer (and especially when the older question has no answer). I think this is the better written of the two, so I'm going to close the older one as a duplicate of this one and leave this one open to see if we can get an answer that Ahmad is comfortable accepting.
    – ColleenV
    Sep 29, 2016 at 22:22

1 Answer 1


Nouns can have prepositional phrases after them that qualify the noun further. Those prepositional phrases may themselves have objects, which are additional nouns.

However, this does not usually create a new rule or requirement. Rules for articles is applied separately to both nouns.

In "X of Y", it's more likely than usual that Y may be a kind or type, which won't take an article, but you can't automatically assume that.

Apart from these examples, I myself think if just one specific thing is possessed by another object then the first noun gets "the". for example we may say "The manager of the shop" but not "the customer of the shop" maybe "the customers of the shop" or maybe just "customers of the shop". "the door of the house" but not "the window of the house". "the head of a human" but not "the hand of a human".

None of this is true. You can use the after of in all these cases.

  • Thank you! I added further examples to my question, I didn't say "the" after "of", but "the" for the noun before "of".
    – Ahmad
    Sep 30, 2016 at 6:07
  • you also said, articles are applied separately to both nouns. In "the study of PR", if I remove "of PR", then I think "the" is not applicable to "study". Then it may apply to "study of PR" which is an specific study. However in "the mouse of the computer", it can be applied separately, Still the one-to-one relation between "mouse" and "computer" has an effect on the "the mouse". However I agree, that "the computer" obeys the general rule of articles.
    – Ahmad
    Sep 30, 2016 at 6:17
  • Nouns that represent general areas of study don't take articles. "I study mathematics," "We are talking about mathematics." Doesn't matter whether it's involved with of or not.
    – LawrenceC
    Sep 30, 2016 at 13:21
  • We don't say "the study of mathematics"? There are lot of results for that, please note I am talking about the noun before "of" (study) not after it.
    – Ahmad
    Sep 30, 2016 at 14:11
  • We don't say "The study of the mathematics."
    – LawrenceC
    Sep 30, 2016 at 14:26

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