I was reading a book for my classes and encountered this passage:

In the 1990s New York City’s art center shifted away from the downtown scene in SoHo to its present location in “Chelsea” on Manhattan’s West Side. But unlike the SoHo that was initially colonized by artists in the 1960s, Chelsea represents “the triumph of the commercial gallery system as a mode of showing and distributing art.”

I thought that regions'/districts'/neigbourhoods' names do not require an article (unless it is part of its name initially). So why doesn't the author use any article when he refers to 'SoHo' for the first time but then puts it in the next sentence?

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    Incidentally, some neighborhoods do take "the", for example "the Mission" or "the Sunset" in San Francisco. Nov 27, 2023 at 16:07

2 Answers 2


Normally there would be no article with SoHo but as we take an historical perspective, the author wants you to think about many different SoHos. The SoHo of the 1960s is not the same as the SoHo of the 2020s.

To emphasise this, the author shifts to using "SoHo" as a common noun, and it gets a definite article when discussing a single historical instance of SoHo.

You can see this with other proper nouns:

The England of the Middle Ages was a dangerous place.

John is sometimes friendly and sometimes rude. The John that came to the meeting was grumpy and brusque, but the John that I met in the lunch hall was friendly and charming. It is strange how one person can change personality.

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    +1 but 'brusk'? Not brusque? Nov 26, 2023 at 18:58
  • Yes, dylexic moment that the spellchecker didn't catch.
    – James K
    Nov 26, 2023 at 19:06
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    @MichaelHarvey The OED actually lists "brusk" as an alternative to "brusque" - but with no entries more recent than the 17th century. At first I thought it must be American - but there is nothing to that effect in the OED.
    – WS2
    Nov 26, 2023 at 19:26
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    'no entries more recent than the 17th century' - that's fine by me. James, you can have your 'brusk'! Nov 26, 2023 at 19:48
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    Prithee, thou art an honest man, sharp and sententious; pleasant without scurrility, witty without affectation, audacious without impudency, learned without opinion, and strange without heresy.
    – James K
    Nov 26, 2023 at 19:54

We can use a definite article before the name of a place, district, town, country, continent, etc, if we wish to specify it in a particular way, perhaps at a particular time, e.g. the London of the 18th century, the England of King Alfred's time, the Europe of the pre-1914 period, the France of my youth.

'The SoHo' that was initially colonized by artists in the 1960s is SoHo as it was at the time specified.

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