I crossed with two sentences:

  • Tango is a partner dance and social dance that originated in the 1880s along to the Río de la Plata.

  • How to dance the Tango.

So, I got very confused because the definite article "the" is not used before proper nouns usually, and "Tango" is a proper noun. Thereby, why does one sentence use "the" and the other not? Is there any rule in this case?

I think that the same happens with the dance named Waltz.

Furthermore, why with some dances, it's not used any article, such as Ballet, gayageum and samulnori?

EDIT: It's been recommended this source:“the top levels of government” -- why not "of THE government"?. Nevertheless, I think this question is more related to the generic topic.

  • 5
    Does this answer your question? “the top levels of government” -- why not "of THE government"? I know the title seems like it might not be relevant, but there is a very good answer to that question that applies to your question as well.
    – ColleenV
    Feb 3, 2021 at 19:12
  • I don't think that really addresses the same question. That answer explains (very well) why/how in some cases an article is left out when using common nouns which usually use one, but it does not answer why an article would be added to proper nouns when they normally do not use one, which is what's being asked here.
    – Foogod
    Feb 4, 2021 at 0:53
  • 1
    To be honest, I don't really know the answer to this (I may have to do some research), but I will note that it's not just limited to "Tango" and "Waltz", I believe the use of "the" is generally used with all named dances. I think this may have to do with the fact that they are proper nouns, but they are also a generic term that can have concrete instances (i.e. "the Tango" is the dance form in general, while "a Tango" is a specific instance of somebody performing that dance).
    – Foogod
    Feb 4, 2021 at 0:55
  • 1
    I think the distinction with "Ballet" is that it is actually not a named dance (lke Tango or Waltz), but rather a style of performance. There are many different ballets involving a wide variety of dance moves in all manner of choreography, unlike the Tango or Waltz which are defined by a specific set of movements (in particular ways) that make them that specific thing. (so there are many different ballets, but arguably only one Tango)
    – Foogod
    Feb 4, 2021 at 17:49
  • 1
    This question and answer may also be helpful: Definite article before name of languages
    – ColleenV
    Feb 5, 2021 at 16:32

1 Answer 1


I would argue this.

You need the article because the word dance is implied.

  • The tango is hard to master. [implied: The tango is a dance.]
  • The samba is not. [implied: same as above].
  • The waltz is not so hard to learn. [same thing].

All the above are dances and I would use the article. I would always use a the in front of any specific dance. However, not for the music associated with it.

  • Samba [music] is hard to play.
  • Tango [music] is great to learn.

Ballet is different because it is not "a dance". In fact, it functions like a proper noun, like, for example, classical music.

But beware with ballet. Aficionados sometimes call it "The dance" in English and this is because of the French language where generalities are preceded by an article. That is a tradition and not a grammar issue.

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