"And, Dick, all kinds of queer folk live in the trunk of the Faraway Tree," said Jo."

The is not capital here, which means it is not the part of the name? Why is the used here?

  • Which the? Second, the is only used before nouns or noun phrases (the chocolate cake)....
    – user6951
    Commented Jun 19, 2015 at 15:43
  • Are you asking why it wasn't The Faraway Tree?
    – TimR
    Commented Jun 19, 2015 at 15:44
  • @pazzo I thought it would be obvious. I am talking about the in front of faraway tree. That is the name of the tree, isn't it? Commented Jun 19, 2015 at 15:45
  • 1. The can be as definite article for "rivers" but not with "lakes". 2. "Unique" is only superlative adjective which comes after "a" .
    – user26066
    Commented Nov 3, 2015 at 12:10

5 Answers 5


Offhand, I can think of a number of proper names that seem to include the definite article.  At least, they regularly appear with the article firmly attached: the Amazon, the Nile, the Bronx, the United States, the United Nations, the Louvre, the Eiffel Tower, the Statue of Liberty -- the list does go on.  None of these proper names require the article to be capitalized, but they do require it to be present.

Some categories of properly named things allow a rule-of-thumb interpretation.  For instance, rivers generally take the article, but lakes generally don't.  Overall, each name needs to be considered on a case by case basis.  Even where you can find rules of thumb, you may also find exceptions.

Should we consider the definite article to be a part of these proper names?  Why not?  Whether we claim that it's a part of the name or we claim that the name simply requires it, the result is much the same.

There is a difference between proper names in general and the titles of written and filmed works.  When referring to Edgar Allan Poe's immortal "The Raven", we should capitalize the article.  You might have internalized the rule as "because it's part of the name".  However, this rule applies specifically to these titles, not to proper names in general.  We can be this specific about writing and film because the titles are included in those works -- on a title page or title card, for instance.

Other artistic works don't include their titles in the works themselves.  I don't capitalize the article for the Statue of Liberty, the Mona Lisa, the Thinker, or the Treachery of Images.  In fact, I will drop the article if I choose to use a genitive determiner: Bartholdi's Statue of Liberty, da Vinci's Mona Lisa, Rodin's Thinker, Magritte's Treachery of Images.

I would do the same thing with the proper names listed above.  On its own, "the United States" always begins with "the".  If I contrast Carl Greenberg's United States with Carl Bernstein's United States, there isn't a definite article in sight.

We now have an answer to the casual "why not?" that I asked earlier.  Since we can replace the definite article with some other determiner, we shouldn't consider the determiner to be a part of the name.  We should simply consider that name to require a determiner.


Rarely, you may see examples of Irish or Scottish clan heads referred to as "the X", where X is the clan name, so you could see "the O'Halloran" or "the MacNeil", but this usage seems to be disappearing and probably derives from gaelic origins. In those cases, the name is also the role. In Australia, the town of Alice Springs is often referred to as "the Alice", but this is a one-off.

Of course, where the name is intended as an adjective, we use the definite article, as in "the Obama administration".


Because there is only one (of such thing).

Other common examples include

the sun, the moon, the earth.

And even things we generally consider there is only one of (near us).

the hospital, the library

And in terms of place names

the Caribbean, the Cook Islands

  • So, can I say - chocolates are for the kuki. Here kuki is the name of the child. Commented Jun 19, 2015 at 15:49
  • No, because we don't use articles for people's names.
    – JMB
    Commented Jun 19, 2015 at 16:50
  • Re place names, unless a capitalized "The" is part of the name of the place or entity, e.g. The Gambia, The Bahamas, The Woodlands (unincorporated place in Texas), The University of Texas at Austin.
    – shoover
    Commented Jun 19, 2015 at 17:46
  • So can I say - have you been to the Paras hospital? Paras is the name of the hospital. Or should I say - have you been to Paras hospital? Commented Jun 20, 2015 at 5:58
  • 1
    I would definitely say the Paras hospital.
    – JMB
    Commented Jun 20, 2015 at 8:49

You don't use the before names or proper nouns that identify a person.

If you do this with a proper name it sounds like you are trying to depersonalize someone (i.e. consider them a mere thing) and can be considered rude, condescending, and awkward.

Give it to John.

Never Give it to the John - especially not with the name John as john is a colloquial/slang term for a toilet.

If the name or proper noun identifies a thing or place, the is used. It's an article and not part of the name.

I'm going to the Magical Park.

The sword Arthur pulled from the stone was called the Excalibur.

  • 6
    No, it is/was called Excalibur.
    – user6951
    Commented Jun 19, 2015 at 16:36
  • 1
    I think whether to use a definite article with a place or thing is a little trickier than you make it out to be. You wouldn't say "I'm going to the Disneyland." but you might say "I'm going to the Disneyland amusement park.". You might say "I'm going to the Philippines." but not "I'm going to the Easter Island".
    – ColleenV
    Commented Jun 29, 2015 at 1:42

Generally speaking, singular things take the definite article. So it's the earth and the sun. Until we name them, when we generally dispense with the article. Thus it's Sol that shines, and the movie is 20 Million Miles to Earth. Names of political divisions are harder to classify. Many country names don't use an article -- no one says "the Japan" -- and neither do cities, except the one in the Netherlands, which is always "The Hague." Other countries are almost always used with the article, but uncapitalized: the United Kingdom. When the highest court in America issues an opinion on an issue of federal governance, it will do so under the name "The Supreme Court of the United States," but the title of case will appear a few lines below as something like "McFadden v United States." Go figure.

People's proper names don't take an article unless the person has taken on a figurative role ("He's a Judas.") Or we wish to distinguish between two people with the same name: "Is that the John Smith you went to high school with?" Or to indicate a famous (or infamous) distinction: "Are you talking about the George Bush?"

"Hospital" differs across the Pond. No matter how close the institution, a Brit goes to hospital; an American, to the hospital. The same with "university," although with a different reason for attendance.

  • "The same with "university," although with a different reason for attendance." Plenty of brain-dead people get put into both, though.
    – Damien H
    Commented Jun 29, 2015 at 6:47

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .