Can someone explain why the author used the before noun names in these cases

  • Use the with the names of hotels & restaurants, unless these are named after a person
  • Use the with the names of famous buildings, works of art, museums, or monuments.
  • Do not use the with the names of meals
  • Do not use the with the names of languages
  • Do not use the with the names of individual mountains, lakes, and islands

but not in these...

  • Use the with names of geographical areas, rivers, mountain ranges, groups of islands, canals, and oceans.
  • Do not use the with names of countries (except for the special cases above).
  • Do not use the with names of shops
  • Do not use the with people's names.


  • Hello, Buffy. Can you explain the sense you intend for 'only' here, please? Commented May 6, 2018 at 10:29
  • It's indefinite.
    – Hot Licks
    Commented May 6, 2018 at 20:03

1 Answer 1


An interesting question, touching on a point of syntax I do not see in my grammar references. Let us explore.

Intuitively, a native English speaker recognizes that the before names is optional in each of these cases. (The last sentence is different syntactically, and is not addressed in this answer.) Here are some similar constructions where the is likewise optional:

  • [The] leaders of democratic nations are usually persuasive public speakers.
  • [The] shorelines of lakes are sometimes highly developed.
  • [The] covers of graphic novels often feature a dramatic scene from the story.

In each of these cases, as well as the cases in the question, the is only optional because the noun it modifies is also being modified by a prepositional phrase — “of languages”, “of democratic nations”, “of graphic novels”. Without such a prepositional phrase, we would be referring to names, shorelines, etc. in general, and the use of the would be incorrect (unless an earlier sentence had specified what names or shorelines we are referring to). With such a phrase, the can be used or omitted, and the sentence sounds correct either way. Why?

I think it is because the noun phrase in these cases is a sort of hybrid. The noun can be viewed as a generic noun (names, leaders, shorelines, covers in general), which cannot take the; but it can also be viewed as one that, having been specified (names of languages, shorelines of lakes), does take the. Consider these phrases:

  • Covers of graphic novels
  • The covers of graphic novels

The first usage seems more generic: covers of all graphic novels, considered as a class. The second seems more specific: which covers? these covers.

As I said, a most interesting question, and one that I was unable to find addressed in my reference materials. I did find some material online addressing similar issues:

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