I read the following news article online today: "An ugly legal battle between one of world's most popular artists and a group of nuns over a real estate turned tragic when one of the..." Why is world not preceded by "the", while it is, in the following saying: "What in the world are you saying?" Can I say, "What in world are you saying?", and "... the world's most popular...?" There are other examples where the article "the" is used in one situation, but not in another. Like,

The earth is but one country and mankind its citizesns.


Earth looks incredibly beautiful from space.

What seems to be the rule here?


2 Answers 2


You can't really say he is world's greatest chess player. Nor can you say what in world are you talking about. The sentences are just not grammatical. You absolutely must have a definite article placed in front of the word world. That's because it's usually a requirement that you use some sort of article in front of countable nouns in English and if the thing that you're talking about has already been mentioned, or is common knowledge, or is about to be defined, the article to use is the.

However, it's a totally different story when it comes to the way we use the word Earth. You can leave out the the from the Earth (notice that this word usually begins with a capital letter). But in that case, what you're doing is that you're referring to the planet we all live on by its name. All planets in our solar system, as you probably know, have been given names: Mars, Pluto, Venus, Jupiter, Neptune etc. Earth is just one of them. Earth, in this respect, is a unique word as it can be used both with a definite article (the Earth) and without one (Earth).

As per the article that you've been reading, the fact that there is no definite article in front of the word world is simply a grammatical mistake on the part of the people who wrote it. Simple as that.

  • 2
    Pluto isn't a planet.
    – user3395
    Mar 11, 2018 at 13:12
  • @userr2684291 I'm certainly not an expert in astronomy, but Wikipedia says that it's a dwarf planet. Mar 11, 2018 at 13:16
  • "A dwarf planet is a planetary-mass object that is neither a planet nor a natural satellite." – Wikipedia
    – user3395
    Mar 11, 2018 at 13:38
  • Cookie Monster, if Earth, as you seem to be saying here is a proper noun because there is only one of it, as opposed to world, which are many, and proper nouns are not preceded by the, unless they come with the article, like The white house, then why does Earth even get a the in front of it? You stated Earth is a different story, but why does it not follow the same rule for other planets? We never say the Venus, do we?
    – Bahram
    Mar 12, 2018 at 5:49
  • @Bahram I don't know the history behind the why, but my guess would be that this is similar to how we say "the sun" and "the moon". There are many suns and many moons. But our sun and our moon are unique to us. Similarly, we say "the earth" because it's not some earth, it's out earth. So, it's THE earth. The only difference is that we don't happen to have names for the sun and the moon as we do for our earth. That's just the way it is, I think. I'd recommend thinking our "earth" as an exception in that it can be referred to both ways with a definite article and without one. Mar 12, 2018 at 6:47

It should be "the world", it's a typo.

For articles (a/an/the) there are some complex rules but the simple version is:

nouns needs articles except pronouns

In your example of "the Earth", the noun here is "planet". Where is planet? It's in parentheses.

the (planet) Earth.

the (planet (whose name is)) Earth.

(the (planet (whose name is))) Earth.


I live on Earth.

I live on (the (planet (whose name is))) Earth.

Also, "earth" = "soil" = "dirt"

  • 1
    My question here then is why Earth get a the in front of it at all, and not follow the same rule for other planets? We never say the Jupiter, then, whey the Earth? Is it because it's a common noun, since it has other meanings as you mentioned?
    – Bahram
    Mar 12, 2018 at 5:56

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