Why some noun phrases require the definite article, some don't? They are quite similar in structure. Why do we say "the NYC area", "the English language", but "AI technology", "blockchain technology"? How are latter phrases different from former ones?

My hunch: technology here is a category? Is that the (only) reason?

  • 2
    As a native New Yorker, I can attest that no one says the JFK airport. It's just JFK airport, no article required.
    – fjack
    Commented Oct 15, 2018 at 4:43
  • @fjack You are right. I think in this case airport has been subsumed under the proper noun, which coming together becomes JFK Airport. I have seen it used with the article though, taking airport out of the proper noun, example. Of course, as you say, this is uncommon. Strangely I am under the impression there are airports whose names are of this pattern: the X airport. Anyways I need to think of better examples. Maybe the NYC area would work?
    – Eddie Kal
    Commented Oct 15, 2018 at 5:13

2 Answers 2


As far as I can tell, it's because area and language are countable while technology is uncountable.

The phrases NYC area and English language take "the" because the words area and language take "the". The phrases AI technology and blockchain technology don't usually take "the" because the word technology doesn't usually take "the".

  • I don't think it is an issue of countable/uncountable. Water is uncountable, but we can say "the water".
    – Tashus
    Commented Oct 16, 2018 at 16:00
  • @Tashus We can say "the AI technology" and "the blockchain technology" too. Commented Oct 16, 2018 at 17:06
  • Right, so it isn't a matter of being countable.
    – Tashus
    Commented Oct 16, 2018 at 17:18

The definite article is used to refer to a particular member of a group or class. (See Wikipedia for more on definite and indefinite articles.)

Some might disagree with where the borders are drawn, but there is exactly one NYC area. There are different varieties of English, but they are all part of one English language.

Usually when we talk about AI technology, we are not talking about a single invention. "AI technology" usually refers collectively to all of the inventions, mechanisms, and techniques related to artificial intelligence.

We would only use "the AI technology" if we did intend to talk about a specific type of AI technology in contrast to all of the other AI technologies, such when saying, "neural networks are the AI technology with the most success". (This is just an example; I am not trying to make this claim.)

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