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Consider United States of America or United Kindgom. While using these, it is customary to add the before it.
Eg. I'm travelling to the United Kingdom

However, when I use the abbreviation, it doesn't seem right to add the before UK. It will usually be sans the the, like, I'm travelling to UK.

Is it because when I use UK, I treat it as a proper noun, and in case of United Kingdom, it is mainly used to denote a cluster of kingdoms, and not treated a proper noun? Is skipping the the correct usage?

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  • This is American usage. We appear to be back to differences in the two countries on when and when not to apply a definite article. In Britain we would say 'I'm going home to the UK'. Would the OP say 'I'm going to USA' ? I think not, but nor would we.
    – WS2
    Commented Feb 27, 2014 at 21:55
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    @WS2 It is not American usage.
    – choster
    Commented Feb 27, 2014 at 22:13

3 Answers 3

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Perhaps it's a regional thing, but here (midwestern US), most people would use "the" in either case- "I'm flying to the United Kingdom from the US". Leaving the "the" out in either case sounds strange. However, this is one of those situations where there may not be an absolute right or wrong.

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There are, as always with articles (and proper nouns), idiosyncrasies.

Entities which are not usually known by their abbreviations tend to keep or omit the articles in parallel with the long forms:

The National Symphony Orchestra is conducted by Christoph Eschenbach.

The NSO is conducted by Christoph Eschenbach.

Doctors Without Borders is based in New York City.

DWB is based in New York City.

But where an abbreviation is widely known, it is like an alternative name— and thus, whether or not the abbreviation takes an article is unrelated to whether it does so when spelled out, and is largely a matter of convention:

The BBC was chartered in 1927.

The British Broadcasting Corporation was chartered in 1927.

NBC introduced its trademark chimes in 1931.

The National Broadcasting Corporation introduced its trademark chimes in 1931.

We generally say the United Kingdom and the United States, the U.K. and the U.S. / the U.S.A., and I think native English speakers from an early age learn to silently read the United Kingdom and the United States whenever they see UK and US. Not to do so sounds unnatural, since this is the convention.

Others, however, may tend to read UK as an alternative name instead of instinctively reading it out, in which case the UK could indeed sound strange, like saying the CBS or the UNICEF.

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Abbreviation doesn't change usage. If you use 'the' with United Kingdom, use it with UK. If not, then don't for both cases.

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