I know that "the" is wrong here, but I can't explain why it's wrong to my friend here, and I have trouble formulating a google search to find some descriptive "rule" or something. Help please?

  • There's a lot of idiosyncratic fixedness (idiomaticity) in these areas. I'd never say 'house 24', or 'bus 24' using 'number 24' or 'the number 24' respectively instead. 'Widow Smith' and 'the Widow Smith' seem equally popular (though the latter has an old-fashioned/US flavour to my UK ears). (What a mixed – or perhaps more accurately 'inappropriate' – metaphor!) Feb 24, 2014 at 10:30

3 Answers 3


Because "booth 24" and "room 56" are acting as proper nouns (names). Just like you would say let's meet at "ABC" , where "ABC" is the name of a restaurant.

  • 2
    It's more complex, more idiosyncratic than this (though what you say contains truth). For instance, the football team 'Arsenal' is often referred to as 'the Arsenal' (it is named after the arsenal at Woolwich (Woolwich Arsenal)), and which shortened form is used is a matter of personal choice. Saying 'It's like' in these areas is almost as bad as doing the same for the Tri-unity. Collins Cobuild have a 100+ page monograph on the use of a , an and the . Feb 24, 2014 at 10:02

It's like saying the date. You say:

"The 3rd of September" or "September 3"


"The September 3" or "The September 3rd"

Because what warrants the use of "the" here is that specific day of September.

In your example, what warrants the "the" is the specific number, not the fact that it's a room among other places. So you have two choices:

Either "the 24th room" or "room 24"

I hope this makes sense.

Edit: I guess time isn't a proper analogy but it carries the meaning across. Because when telling time, "September the 3rd" would have been perfectly acceptable too but "room the 24th" doesn't work.

  • I never say 'September 3' (which sounds thus: 'September Three'). I might write it, but I'd transpose back to 'September the third' on reading it in almost every conceivable case. Feb 24, 2014 at 10:25

I would not see booth 24 as proper noun, but booth 24 is so precise an indication that is unnecessary to use the.

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