I just watched this video on YouTube 5 Unexplained Mysteries Of World War II! and was surprised that many viewers were almost enraged by the fact that the author said many times "the world war II" instead of just "world war II". Not being a native speaker of English, I was quite surprised and also ashamed because I say "the world war II" quite often. Now I understand that it's wrong to do so.

However, I still don't understand the reason. In the comments under that video, there was an argument brought up that "World war II" is a name - just like "Facebook" or "Tony" - and names are not to be used with "the". But I noticed that in Wikipedia, while the article on that war is titled as "World War II", another name for that war in the article is used with "the" quite often - "the second world war".

Also, I remember how Ed Sullivan was announcing the Beatles on his show: "Ladies and gentlemen, the Beatles" - he did use "the" then even though "Beatles" is a name.

So, why not "The World War II"? And why so many viewers were so angry? Does "The World war II" sound somewhat insulting to native English speakers?

  • The short answer is that you never use definite articles with names unless the article happened to be part of the name itself. Commented May 28, 2018 at 3:29
  • Sullivan introduced them as "The Beatles" because that's the name of the band. Commented May 28, 2018 at 4:51
  • Videos on Youtube are often made and commented upon by uneducated or non-native speakers. Also, the comments sections are notorious for the likelihood of rude, angry or stupid items. We would use the definite article for 'the Second World War". I have seen it alleged that most British people tend to use "the Second World War" when writing formally, and Americans "World War II.", but I do not have any scientific evidence. Commented May 28, 2018 at 7:45

1 Answer 1


Because "Second World War" isn't originally a name, being, instead, a construction built by taking the term "world war" and adding a "second" in the front to differentiate it from the "First World War", it needs a "the" in front of it. If it helps, you can mentally split it into "the second" + "world war", which should make this clearer. "World War II", on the other hand, is a typical name, and, thus, needs no "the" in front of it.

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