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From what I've learned, special names don't get definite articles. (I should admit that the use of articles in English is very tricky) For example, we say Apple but not the Apple to refer to the company. But I've seen in many places people use "the ipad" to refer to the tablet produced by Apple. for example, in the sentece which I've taken from wikipedia "The iPad has two internal speakers reproducing left and right channel audio located on the bottom-right of the unit." Why can't we simply say iPad? Do product names always take definite articles.

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Sure, proper names get articles. Have you seen the new Ford this year? Looks like a Chevy. –  tchrist Mar 5 '13 at 1:08
This is a duplicate, but I believe choster's answer to be better and the questions should be merged. –  Andrew Leach Mar 5 '13 at 8:33
@AndrewLeach Huh, I did search, but that thread didn't come up. Clearly I should have been looking for "iPad" instead of "articles proper nouns." Just as Apple had planned all along. –  choster Mar 5 '13 at 17:41
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marked as duplicate by FumbleFingers, Andrew Leach, Matt Эллен, tchrist, Robusto Mar 5 '13 at 13:10

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4 Answers

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Names of countable physical objects, including manufactured goods, customarily accept an article: I bought an iPhone for my sister-in-law, but she wanted the Samsung Galaxy S III instead.

The article is omitted if the subject is uncountable, e.g. She prefers Pepsi-Cola to Coke but She would rather have a [bottle of] Pepsi than a [bottle of] Coke.

In fact, quite a large proportion of names take articles, such as the names of

  • many public and academic organizations or institutions, particularly where a component of the name is by itself a common noun — He retired from the Seventh Fleet and consulted for the Department of State, and lectured at the University of Maryland on the Catholic Church in the United Provinces.

  • geographic features, with the exception of continents, most countries, most cities, most streets, most lakes, waterfalls, features where the type of feature is the second part of the name, and most individual mountains. Antarctica but the Antarctic; Botany Bay but the Bay of Bengal

  • some concepts and devices based on names — Doppler radar but the Doppler effect, Moore's Law but the Chandrasekhar limit

  • anything where The is always included as part of its full name — She met the Stig at a café in a village near the Matterhorn, on holiday from her job with The New York Times Company in the Netherlands.

Apple markets its products without articles, calling them simply iPad and not the iPad in their advertising materials. My personal speculation on this is that it is an attempt to elevate them in the imagination of the customer; it is not merely a product, but something whose name would not take an article, like a person, or a culture, or another planet.

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Good explanation-- re your last point, I think the reason is also partly to do with the fact that it is common to refer to platforms/operating systems without articles ("in Windows", "for iOS", "under Linux"), so it's a way of emphasising the iPad as a platform as well as a physical device. –  Neil Coffey Mar 5 '13 at 2:29
Good answer! So from what I understood, the criteria is to be a physical product and not countable? But in @NeilCoffey's case, we are talking about abstract things such as Windows and Mac OS? –  Ali Mar 5 '13 at 10:36
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I think because it helps to maintain the word as a trademarked name and not just a generic term. Even better would be "the Ipad device" :)

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Actually, Apple always refers to it as iPad and never "the iPad" in all of their official descriptions. Example –  Kosmonaut Mar 5 '13 at 1:06
Yes, but that's part of their marketing, not part of the grammar. Why do Apple's marketing for free? –  John Lawler Mar 5 '13 at 1:49
@JohnLawler: My point was not that Apple's usage defines what is standard, but rather that Apple's usage directly contradicts the theory that the definite article somehow maintains the word as a trademark. –  Kosmonaut Mar 5 '13 at 3:08
Trademark law is something I ask lawyers about. –  John Lawler Mar 5 '13 at 3:56
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At the computer magazine where I work, we consistently refer to the products we evaluate as "the Kindle," "the Nexus 7," "the Surface," "the iPad," etc., etc., etc. On one level, "the iPad" stands for "the iPad that we had in our lab for testing." But more generally, the usage seems appropriate because we're extrapolating from our experience with that particular test unit to say something more general about the entire production line of the same model in comparison to test units of other models that we've examined.

We have occasionally had discussions about whether it would be more accurate for our reviewers to say "our test iPad," "the test iPad," and so on instead of "the iPad" (of course it would be). But the very tendentiousness of our claim to be discussing something broader than a single unit of hardware explains why we don't rein ourselves in by constantly acknowledging the limits of our research: Readers care about the characteristics of the particular iPad we tested only insofar as it provides insight into the characteristics of the iPad that they might buy.

Thus, for example, in a camera review:

I noticed significant amounts of noise in the [Canon] SD900's shots as I increased its ISO sensitivity above 400, but it performed better than the S80 at the same ISO settings (the S80 tops out at ISO 400). The 30D was far superior: Its noise level at ISO 3200 was comparable to the SD900's at ISO 400.

I believe that this convention with regard to names of reviewed products is commonplace in U.S. publishing. It certainly isn't limited to discussions of Apple products.

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When someone says "the iPad has two speakers" they are referring to it in an abstract sense.

There are two slightly different senses of the word "iPad". There is the abstract sense of "the design":

The iPad's greatest competitors are the Kindle Fire and the Nexus 7.

And there is the more concrete sense of "a particular realisation of that design":

The iPad I am holding in my hand ...

This is by no means restricted to iPads! For example:

How many stars are there on the United States flag?

The pacific north west tree octopus (Octopus paxarbolis) can be found in the temperate rainforests of the Olympic Peninsula on the west coast of North America.

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