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9 Names

This is another section where the use of the with names can be quite confusing!


  • As a general rule - but there are many exceptions - we do not use the with names. We do not say the John Smith, the Doctor Pearson, etc.


  • But with names of families, we can say

The Smiths (the Smith family), the Robinsons, the Wisniewskis.


  • However, if there are two people who have the same name, we use the when we want to be clear as to which one we are talking about: You’re not the Daniel Craig, are you?


  • We can use the with a name if there is an adjective between the and the name: The late Ronald Reagan; the incredible, fantastic Andy Pickford!


  • But remember - we can use a with a name when it is unclear as to which individual of the same name is being talked about:

There was an Angel in my class - well, to be more accurate, his name was Angelo! There is a Fred Smith in reception who says he has an appointment to see you.


We do not usually use the with names of countries, towns and cities. We do not say The Poland, The France, The Malaysia, The Saudi Arabia, The Paris, The Madrid, etc., BUT…


  • If the country or place has a plural name (usually because it is made up of many parts – islands, states, etc), or has kingdom, republic, commonwealth, or federation as part of its official name, then we say The United Kingdom, The Netherlands, The Philippines, The United States, The Russian Federation, The Irish Republic, The Commonwealth of Nations.


  • But for various other reasons (perhaps historical) we say Ukraine or The Ukraine, Sudan or The Sudan. And there is one town in Holland that is called The Hague.


Now when it comes to geographical features, this is where it gets interesting.


  • We use the with names of most of those features connected with water: rivers, seas, oceans, canals, waterfalls, particularly if it is part of the name. The River Amazon (or The Amazon River); The Suez Canal, The Niagara Falls, The Atlantic Ocean, The Baltic Sea.




  • Lakes (and lochs and loughs, which are Gaelic words for lake, but are used in the English language) do NOT USE The. Lake Victoria, Loch Ness, Lough Neagh. Of course, you can argue that The Caspian Sea is in fact a lake, but it has sea in the name, so it uses the

  • We use the with deserts: The Kalahari Desert. The Sahara Desert. The Atacama.

  • With groups of islands: The Canary Islands (or The Canaries), The Philippines. The Soloman Islands.

  • With ranges of mountains, lakes, and certain areas: The Tatra Mountains (or The Tatras), The Alps, The Pyrenees, The Atlas Mountains, The Great Lakes, The tropics, etc. But we do not use the when we talk about one mountain or one lake: Mount Everest. Lake Tahoe.

  • We say the north/south/east/west of a place: The north (e.g., of Russia), The south (e.g., of Arizona), The north-east (of London). BUT…

…as an adjective, we do not! Northern France, South-east Malaysia, Eastern Europe.

  • However: The Eastern seaboard of the USA. (Seaboard is not a specific place, but a description of a coastline that happens to be in the east of the United States.)

  • But if it is part of the official name, we do not use the: South Africa. North Dakota.

  • And should you decide to travel to specifically named points on the world that are determined by lines of latitude and longitude, then you can visit the North Pole, the South Pole, the Equator, and to the Tropic of Capricorn, the Tropic of Cancer, or even the Arctic Circle.

  • And when we talk about general geographical features, we use the: the seaside, the country, the forest, the beach, etc: I live in the country as I don’t like the city.

  • Finally, the is usually dropped from maps, so you will see Atlantic Ocean, North Pole, Sahara Desert, etc., all mentioned without the.

I suggest we take a short break before we move on. I’m quite exhausted after all that...

Did you enjoy your cup of coffee? Good. So we will continue…

Here is a summary of when we use the with other names:

  • Buildings: Most hotels, theatres, cinemas, museums, certain important buildings: The Sheraton Hotel, the Windmill theatre, the Roxy Cinema, the Science Museum, the Tate Gallery, the Shukov tower. Often the noun is left out, and many buildings are just called by their names only: The Sheraton, the Windmill, the Louvre.

  • Places that have ‘of’ in their name (or just about any name with 'of' in it): The Leaning Tower of Pisa, The University of Cambridge (BUT: Cambridge University without ‘the’), the Bank of Scotland.


  • Organisations and newspapers: The Daily Telegraph, the Schengen countries, the BBC, the European Commission, The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (BUT: UNESCO without ‘the’ as this becomes a ‘name’: see below).


And places that generally do not have ‘the’ in their names:


  • Most street names, parks and squares: Trafalgar Square, Green Park, London Road, Watling Street, Park Lane, Sunset Boulevard, Piccadilly Circus, Oxford Street

  • Names of important places whose first word is a name of a place or person: Heathrow Airport, Winchester Cathedral, Windsor Castle, John Lennon Airport (Liverpool Airport).


  • Places named after people and that usually end with ‘s’: McDonalds, Joe’s Bar, St. Peter’s Church, Waterstones, Hamleys (a very big toy shop in London).


  • Names of most companies and airlines: Lufthansa, Ryanair, Samsung, Nokia, Apple, Coca-Cola, Google, Hewlett-Packard, UNESCO.


Right. Time for another:



L) A QUICK CHECK (15 minutes)

Decide if you need to add the to the following people, places and organisations:


1. _____ Doctor Johnson

2. _____ Johnsons

3. _____ Czech Republic

4. _____ Portugal

5. _____ Saudi Arabia

6. _____ River Danube

7. _____ Lake Superior

8. _____ Sahara Desert

9. _____ Dolomites

10. _____ Southern Europe

11. _____ North West of Canada

12. _____ Palace of Culture and Science

13. _____ Institute of Education

14. _____ Grauman’s Chinese Theatre

15. _____ Victoria and Albert Museum

16. _____ World Wildlife Fund

17. _____ Mayfair

18. _____ Old Kent Road

19. _____ Royal Library of Alexandria

20. _____ St. Paul’s Cathedral

21. _____ Honda


Here are the answers below. If you are not sure, read through the notes above one more time.

The places that need the are: 2. The Johnsons; 3. The Czech Republic; 6. The River Danube; 8. The Sahara Desert; 9. The Dolomites; 11. The North West of Canada; 12. The Palace of Culture and Science; 13. The Institute of Education; 15. The Victoria and Albert Museum; 16. The World Wildlife Fund; 19. The Royal Library of Alexandria.

Mayfair and Old Kent Road are roads in London, but they could also (possibly) be names of pubs or hotels, so you could, technically, write 'the' before them.

If you said The Honda, this would be correct if you are describing the make of car. If it is the company, there is no the.

Not much more to go now, and that was perhaps the most difficult bit out the way. But do read back before you continue!

When you are ready, move on.

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