I'm reading the page on Wikipeda:

Earth [...] is the third planet from the Sun[...]
The Earth's human population is [...]

Then the University of Tennessee's page

The Earth is certainly the most familiar planet [...]
Apollo 11 shot of Earth
Galileo shot of the Earth and Moon

I think no other planets have this problem. Nobody would say "The Mars is certainly the first planet that humans will travel to", so what's happening here?

So what is the correct way of referring to the planet that i'm on right now? Does it require "THE" or not? How come English-speaking Earthlings keep changing the rules in the middle of a paragraph?

  • There is/ are related question/s on these pages. Please use search. – Kris Nov 10 '14 at 13:26
  • @Kris The only related question i found is dealing with 'a moon' vs 'the Moon'. Couldn't find about the planet. – v010dya Nov 10 '14 at 13:28
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    @Joe Dark: then all the people in London who refer to their river as "the Thames" are wrong? And all the people in New York who say "the Hudson"? And on the West Coast who talk about "the Pacific"? There is nothing wrong with "the Earth", "the Sun", and "the Moon". – Peter Shor Nov 10 '14 at 14:21
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    This link may help : grammarmudge.cityslide.com/board/board_topic/1345816/… – user66974 Nov 10 '14 at 14:30
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    @Josh61 Both the above two links provide excellent material here. Thanks to you and TimL. – WS2 Nov 10 '14 at 16:02

You'll find the answer here:

When the noun earth refers to our planet, it is capitalized only when it’s a proper noun (meaning it acts like a name and is not preceded by the—for example, everything on Earth). The word is not capitalized when it is a common noun (meaning it does not act like a name and is preceded by the—e.g., everything on the earth).

And of course, earth is sometimes used to mean the soft part of land (synonymous with dirt or soil), in which case it does not need to be capitalized. It can also mean the land surface of the world or the realm of mortal existence without becoming a proper noun. http://grammarist.com/style/earth/

Examples of "Earth" and "the earth" in texts from newspapers, can also be found here. http://grammarist.com/style/earth/

  • So after John Cockrin's warp flight vulcans landed on Earth not on the Earth? That just doesn't sound right. But i guess i can be mistaken. – v010dya Nov 10 '14 at 14:42
  • @Volodya Well, it must confuse a lot of people. I myself must have made that mistake sometimes. (capitalizing when I should not or omitting the article) – Centaurus Nov 10 '14 at 14:46

I think "Earth" and "the Earth" are used pretty much interchangeably.

In general, you do not use an article with a proper noun in English. As you say, we do not say "the Mars", nor do we say "the Fred Smith". But you DO use an article with nouns that are not proper nouns. We do say, "the planet", "the man", etc.

But then there are a few special cases. We seem to think of "Internet" as a proper noun. After all, there is and can be only one: if you made another huge computer network, it wouldn't really be "another internet", but "another big network that resembles the Internet". But we still put "the" in front of it: "I access the Internet from my home computer", NOT "I access Internet ...".

And "Earth". Sometimes we say "Earth", sometimes we say "the Earth". Perhaps it's because we're not quite sure if it's a proper name or a general noun, like there might be other earths but this is the one we live on, but then again this is our home planet, THE Earth.

Note we capitalize Moon also, but when speaking of our own moon, it's always "the Moon". We don't say, "Apollo 11 travelled to Moon", but "... to the Moon". That's a little less mysterious because we talk about other planets having moons. In a sense it's natural to say that our own of something is "the", like I've heard people refer to their house as "the house", as in, "I've got to go the house and pick up my golf clubs". But that doesn't quite explain it, as we don't capitalize the word in such cases. No one writes, "I went to the House to pick up my golf clubs".

As with many things in language, I think you just have to learn the special cases and exceptions. Sometimes there are historical reasons that may or may not make sense or apply any more, but that's how it is.

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