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This may be an incredibly stupid question but I'm having a bit of trouble with it.

If I want to write:

I transferred flights at the airport.

Then I know I need to use 'at the' as 'airport' is a noun.

but what if I want to specify the airport to be Sydney Domestic Airport?

I'm of (the perhaps wrong?) belief that 'Sydney Domestic Airport' is a proper noun and so you shouldn't need the preceding 'the'? But reading it out loud either way seems correct.

So what fundamental rule am I obviously forgetting from primary school? Go easy on me!

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You wouldn't normally prefix Sydney Domestic Airport with the. If it was in a context where there was another nearby airport that you might have used, it wouldn't necessarily sound odd to use the definite article, because you're underlining that it was this one, rather than the other. But even then you wouldn't need to use it. –  FumbleFingers Jan 9 '12 at 22:58
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There is no fundamental rule. The and a/an get used in a large and bewilderingly random number of ways, just because they are available and aren't needed in any semantic way most of the time. Most of the time, they don't mean anything, and there is no single rule that covers them all. Be glad you grew up speaking English if you did -- any non-native speaker will tell you that articles are the bane of their existence. –  John Lawler Jan 10 '12 at 0:35
    
There are many cases where the definite article is expected with a proper noun. "The new office is right in the City of London." "She boarded her connecting flight at the Humphrey Terminal." "Travel within the Commonwealth alone has increased by 62 percent." And that is not counting old-fashioned references to the Sudan or the Ukraine. –  choster Jan 10 '12 at 0:45
    
@choster: And, what about the Philippines, a thing that bugs me all the time? –  Kris Jan 10 '12 at 10:23
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1 Answer

Because there are two different Sydney domestic airports (as noted below) there could be confusion if you referred to "the Sydney Domestic Airport", because uppercase letters often are pronounced the same way as lowercase ones. There is also potential for confusion among persons who think of Kingsford Smith as an international airport, rather than domestic, and might think Bankstown Airport is being referred to in sentence "I transferred flights at Sydney Domestic Airport". All of "I transferred flights at Sydney Airport", "I transferred flights at SYD", and "I transferred flights at Kingsford Smith" are clear, relatively unambiguous, and grammatical.

Note, "Sydney Domestic Airport" apparently is Terminal 2 or 3 at Sydney Airport, that is, at Kingsford Smith Airport, coded as "SYD" and known as "Sydney International Airport". "Sydney Domestic Airport" apparently does not refer to the Sydney domestic airport known as "Sydney Bankstown Airport", coded as "BWU".

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+1 for all the research and references. At least I was less confused before reading the question and the answer here! –  Kris Jan 10 '12 at 10:26
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