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Suppose that you own a restaurant and you want to make a particular soup for each day of the week, and you want to capitalize the name on the menu (as if it's a proper name or a unique title or something like that).
What would you call it? "Soup Of The Day" or "The Soup Of the Day"? Or both are possible?

I'm not concerned about menus per se. Articles may be omitted in menus, headlines, etc for the sake of shortness. But when a customer sees that the name is started with a capital, they know that it's a special title. How should they order it then? With the definite article or without?

- Are you ready to order?
- Yes. I'll have (?The) Soup Of The Day.

I think maybe the article is not necessary (or even wrong) because unique titles often don't have it (e.g., He is president of France.), but there's this grammar I have that says otherwise.

  • I would say you should not use an article - after all, menus don't say "The Entrees" or "The Desserts". But I don't have a good reference for why, exactly. – stangdon Mar 24 '16 at 15:21
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    It's pretty much just to save space on the menu, AFAIK. "Soup of the Day" is already implicitly considered to be one soup for any given day, so the definite article would be somewhat redundant. That said, there's nothing stopping you from adding it if you really want to. – John Clifford Mar 24 '16 at 15:40
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On the menu, you would use Soup of the Day. When ordering, you would say...

I would like the soup of the day.

Or more likely, you would ask...

What is the soup of the day?

You can use capital letters on the customer's answers or not. Either way is fine.

The customer uses the word the to specify that it is not just any soup of the day he/she wants. It's the Soup of the Day that is on this particular menu.

Hope this helps!

  • You didn't take it into account that unique titles often don't take any article: "I am manager of this company and you are head of purchasing." – Færd Mar 24 '16 at 16:34
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    But I am a native speaker who teaches ESL...and a native speaker would definitely say, I want the soup of the day. In my classes, we talk about the rules of English, but I want my students to mostly focus on conversational English. You can learn all the rules (which is very important), but the fact is - we do not speak how we write. BTW, we would also say, "I am the Manager of this company..." – KittyConsultant Mar 24 '16 at 17:11
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    I agree with this. It's Soup of the Day on the menu, but generally the soup of the day in the conversations around the table. In other words, there's a good chance the waiter might tell the customer: The soup of the day is tomato bisque. Another common usage, though, is personal pronouns; for example, customer, to waiter: What is your soup of the day? (Waiter, back to customer: Our soup of the day is tomato bisque.) – J.R. Mar 24 '16 at 20:33
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Whether or not to capitalize certain words in a title is a matter of style, rather than an absolute rule of the English language. That is, different experts may have different opinions, and different magazines or newspapers may use different style. There are style guides such as The Elements of Style by Strunk & White, or the "The Chicago Manual of Style".

Most style guides generally agree that nouns should always be capitalized in a title, while articles are not, nor are prepositions in most contexts. Therefore, as a title on a menu, you would probably write "Soup of the Day".

When a customer orders from a menu, this is usually done verbally so the question of capitalization does not apply. However, if you were writing a novel and one of the characters orders that soup, you would write the dialog as "I'll have the soup of the day". This would not be capitalized because it is part of an ordinary sentence and not a title.

  • I'm asking about the article, not the capitalization. The capitalization is only to suggest that the name is like a proper noun. – Færd Mar 24 '16 at 16:25
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    @MJF, the name isn't a proper noun. It is literally "the soup of the day". Today's soup might be tomato soup and tomorrow split pea soup. And even for a specific dish, you would usually still use "the", e.g., "I'll have the beef Stroganoff". (Here "Stroganoff" is only capitalized because it is the surname of a person, but probably it could be "stroganoff" as well). It sounds more natural to use "the" when ordering from a menu because there might be variations in preparation, for instance in accompanying pasta or vegetables, but here you're ordering the exact dish as specified on the menu. – ghostarbeiter Mar 24 '16 at 16:35

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