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Definite article with proper nouns, titles followed by a common noun
Using the definite article with acronyms and initialisms

When I listen to major news programs, often I notice that they seem to intentionally omit "the" before the name of the government organizations. For example:

We contacted E.P.A. for comment but they refused our requests.

or

Others consider the actions of treasury to be detrimental to the economy.

These just sound wrong to me. I think it should be "the E.P.A" or "the treasury". However I most often hear this on very credible news programs (The PBS News Hour and Frontline come to mind) so I am sure they know what they're doing...

Is it proper to use "the" before the name of a government organization, or is it optional?

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marked as duplicate by KitFox, Mitch, Josh, jwpat7, JSBձոգչ Aug 14 '12 at 15:40

This question has been asked before and already has an answer. If those answers do not fully address your question, please ask a new question.

2  
    
No related, duplicate. Oh wait, not exact duplicate as last night News Hour definitely omitted "the" before "Treasury" –  Josh Aug 3 '12 at 12:44
    
@KitFox maybe my question really is, "Is Treasury a proper noun"? –  Josh Aug 3 '12 at 12:51
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@Josh It does rather seem it. The Treasury Department really ought to be since it is the name of the department. I agree that it sounds wrong. –  KitFox Aug 3 '12 at 12:52
    
Ah ha, @KitFox I found the actual source from last night. It was the interviewee Neil Barofsky saying things like "In fact, Treasury is projecting that TARP will ultimately cost $60 billion", not an actual News Hour employee. –  Josh Aug 3 '12 at 13:03

2 Answers 2

up vote 4 down vote accepted

There are several reasons to drop the article. One is that some institutions, governmental or not, are never referred to using the definite article. Another is that the article can get dropped as a consequence of familiarity with and/or personification of the institution. Of course, NewsHour and the like may simply impose a stylistic preference to remove nonessential words.


We often apply the definite article to the names of governmental organizations when the type of organization is part of the name (ministry, office, committee, et al). This is natural, since it sounds like we are specifying one organization of a type— National Park Service, which happens to be the name of the national park service; likewise the National Health Service or the Department for International Development. Where the organization is "branded," however, this is not the case, and we do not use the article: Parks Canada, Medicare, USAID (even though we would write out the United States Agency for International Development).

As with the names of countries and geographic features, there are no absolute rules in naming institutions. It is simply Gosbank but always the Bundesbank; someone attended North Carolina State University but attended the University of North Carolina (and yet attended UNC). With proper nouns, whichever usage becomes popular is that which becomes accepted, and sometimes (e.g. [the] Ohio State University) it is a muddle.


Dropping the article is quite common in some other professional communication. People who work with a particular organization may personify it, especially in internal circles, and as English does not use articles for personal names, the article may get dropped.

This is more obvious where an unofficial nickname or abbreviation is used. A large company, say ABC Inc., might organize its employees into divisions. A press release or business school case study about them would write out the full name: the ABC Marketing Division and the ABC Product Development Division.

Suppose you worked for ABC, and you interact regularly with those divisions as well as with some outside actors: the Las Vegas Chamber of Commerce, the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce, and the U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs. Your internal emails will get simpler over time, indicating each group with the minimum of identifying information: there's good news out of Marketing, you should talk to PDD, send the proposal to Vegas but not Boston, we're waiting on approval from BIA. Obvious all those groups are made of up many different people doing many different things, but in terms of their interaction with you, they might as well be monolithic. It doesn't matter if it's Sandy from PDD or Chris from PDD, you just need someone from PDD.

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the article can get dropped as a consequence of familiarity with[...] the institution I believe this is probably what happened in the case of Neil Barofsky who was the most recent person offending my ears with his talk of Treasury. Thanks! –  Josh Aug 3 '12 at 19:26

I think it should be based on the full name. For example, as you say "We contacted the EPA..." but "we contacted IBM .....".
From this discussion, Note the example of "followed FDA standards" versus "contacted the FDA".

I reversed the edit as my opinion is not based on that discussion.

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I think this is actually quite an interesting phenomenon: omitting "the" has the effect of making the department seem more like an independent organization. –  Nate Eldredge Aug 3 '12 at 13:19
    
However that discussion suggests that it would be "We went to UCLA" not "We went to the UCLA", this despite the full rendition of "We went to the University of California, Los Angeles." –  bib Aug 3 '12 at 13:54
    
Yes but that seems to be a specific US usage for universities. I'm UK and wasn't really aware of this. –  Wudang Aug 3 '12 at 14:52
    
@Wudang: are you sure? UEA would normally be 'the University of East Anglia' in formal documents. –  TimLymington Aug 3 '12 at 16:38
    
@TimLymington - sorry I misread. My reading of the linked discussion led me to believe that "I am a student at U of I [University of Illinois]" meant they would drop the article before University but that doesn't seem correct on rereading –  Wudang Aug 4 '12 at 9:35

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