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Using the definite article with acronyms and initialisms

For example, which one of these is more appropriate:

I am talking about what the UNICEF has done for India.

or

I am talking about what UNICEF has done for India.

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If your question is about abbreviations in general, "UNICEF", in my opinion, is a bad example, because I think this acronym is more of a name than an abbreviation. I think most listeners don't even know that it is not a name. (At least in non-english speaking countries where the spelled out name is not easily understood.) –  Alexander Kosubek Sep 17 '12 at 7:45
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The latter is more appropriate, but not because you can't use "the" before an abbreviation. For example, "I live in the UK" and not "I live in UK". It depends what it's an abbreviation for, and (in the case of names of organisations) how they choose to abbreviate their own names. –  Billy Sep 17 '12 at 7:47
    
I believe that those in the know say 'CIA' rather than 'the CIA'. –  Barrie England Sep 17 '12 at 8:00
    
@MattЭллен Would you like to checkout my comment at the answer to the Q you cited? –  Kris Sep 17 '12 at 11:13
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marked as duplicate by Matt Эллен, kiamlaluno, MετάEd, Mahnax, waiwai933 Sep 18 '12 at 7:26

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2 Answers

up vote 6 down vote accepted

It depends on how you pronounce the abbreviation (in this case, UNICEF) in whichever part of the world you are in. If you treat it as an acronym and pronounce it as one word (~younisef), then you won't need the article. However, if, you treat it as an initialism and spell out each letter when you pronounce it, then you will need the the.

Illustrating with examples:

I am talking about what UNICEF has done for India.

I am talking about what the UN has done for India.

I believe that this is more of a general rule of thumb than anything else.

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Yes, you can.

See numerous examples on Google. There's no reason why the definite article cannot be used just because it precedes an abbreviation.

The possibilities and examples are too numerous to discuss.

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