According to post Difference between "infected with" and "infected by", "COVID-19" might be the name of that disease. Therefore, there should be a "the" before it when one mentions it, right?

cure for the COVID-19

However, lots of posts use

cure for COVID-19

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Is "the" there obligatory, optional or unnecessary?

  • Okay, other than this COVID-19 matter, you should note that it should be "however" (one word) and "lots of". Also, "lots of posts" isn't really correct here.
    – AIQ
    Apr 29, 2020 at 18:43
  • If we were talking about a somewhat different disease, I'd say "cure for influenza" but "cure for the flu", even though "flu" means the same thing as "influenza". One might guess that long names don't get "the" but short names do. But then there's "I have the flu" versus "I have a cold." So maybe I shouldn't guess about such things. Apr 30, 2020 at 2:55
  • @AndreasBlass, there may be something in what you say. After all, one could certainly be afflicted by the lurgy or the clap, the DTs or the screaming ab-dab. Apr 30, 2020 at 6:04
  • Those links should be properly placed in the question.
    – Lambie
    Jun 2, 2020 at 15:09

2 Answers 2


Look again at the examples you found on Google - they are not complete quotes. The one that includes the definite article "the" ends with .... because the search result is truncated.

The complete quote is:

.... for developing a potential cure for the Covid-19 virus

The article is therefore for the word "virus".

  • If you are using "COVID-19" as a proper noun, you don't need the article.

  • If you are using "COVID-19" as an attributive noun, then use the appropriate article to whatever it is modifying, for example, "the COVID-19 virus", "a COVID-19 patient".

  • 6
    Ah yes, the “COronVIrus Disease 2019 virus” :p Maybe let’s not say “Covid-19 virus”?
    – Laurel
    Apr 29, 2020 at 17:19
  • 2
    @Laurel we're gonna keep saying hot water heater and lots of other silly things, nothing you can do about it.
    – barbecue
    Apr 29, 2020 at 23:58
  • 6
    @Laurel: This sentence should kill you: "The Covid-19 virus is also known as the SARS-CoV-2 virus." :) Apr 30, 2020 at 0:58
  • 3
    @Laurel COVID-19, being a disease, isn't a virus, and most people wouldn't recognize the virus by name (SARS-CoV-2). Apr 30, 2020 at 6:14
  • 2
    @chrylis-onstrike- absolutely - "the Covid-19 virus" is like saying "the virus that causes Covid-19".
    – Astralbee
    Apr 30, 2020 at 6:51

Use "the" only for a specific instance of the disease.

Researchers are working on a cure for cancer. (general statement)
The cancer that ravaged her body caused her to lose 50 pounds. (specific to a person)

You would not say

Researchers are working on a cure for the cancer.


Scientists are working on a test for COVID-19.
Some people have recovered from COVID-19.
The COVID-19 (disease) that laid him up for a week caused him to lose his job.

Also, use "the" when the disease is an adjective:

The cancer rate among men is ...

  • 6
    It's not this simple. We do use "the" before some disease names, such as "the flu" and "the common cold". It's ideosyncratic. There are also regional dialects where it's common to say "He has the cancer".
    – Barmar
    Apr 29, 2020 at 23:03
  • 1
    @Barmar I've often seen this usage with elderly people when discussing diseases. "You know, Carol's got the diabetes..."
    – barbecue
    Apr 29, 2020 at 23:56
  • 2
    "The COVID-19 that..." sounds comparable to "The Russia that invaded Mars", i.e. it sounds totally unnatural since it sounds like you're trying to clarify which COVID-19 or Russia you're talking about, but there's only one of each. There may be multiple instances of the disease, but in a similar way that there are multiple Russians.
    – NotThatGuy
    Apr 30, 2020 at 7:49
  • @NotThatGuy hm, the Coronavirus is now quite widespread in the United States which went to the Moon in the 60s... Apr 30, 2020 at 8:19
  • @leftaroundabout Not sure whether you're trying to disagree with me or not, but there's a reason to use "the" for each of those cases. In fact all of them require a "the". But that seems beyond the scope of this question. None of those reasons would apply to the COVID-19 or Russia examples. If you said "The United States that..." or "The 60s that..." it would sound similarly strange (although they're slightly different examples because, unlike the examples above, "the" belongs there).
    – NotThatGuy
    Apr 30, 2020 at 10:23

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