5

This question already has an answer here:

Should it be:

In nineteenth-century United States, many railroads were constructed.

Or

In the nineteenth-century United States, many railroads were constructed.

Certainly if America were used in place of United States, then there’d be no definite article. But if I insist on saying United States, should there be one?

This question is different from the other. In my opinion, the latter sentence is somehow awkward and there is the possibility that the first sentence is 'correct'. If you think it obvious that the first sentence is wrong and the second sentence is correct, then please, instead of closing this question, answer it and explain why it is so obvious. Or why the other linked question clearly explains my question here.

marked as duplicate by Drew, Hellion, choster, Jim, Vilmar Apr 9 '15 at 8:39

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.

1

The answer to your question is yes.

These are wrong:

  1. In *United States, many railroads were constructed.
  2. In nineteenth-century *United States, many railroads were constructed.

These are right:

  1. In America, many railroads were constructed.
  2. In nineteenth-century America, many railroads were constructed.
  3. In the United States, many railroads were constructed.
  4. In the nineteenth-century United States, many railroads were constructed.
  5. In the United States of the nineteenth century, many railroads were constructed.
  6. Many railroads were constructed in the United States during the nineteenth century.

You cannot dispense with the article simply by interposing an adjective here. Number 6 does not sound as good as 7 and 8 do. It’s ok with 4, but for some reason 6 sounds awkward.

  • +1 This is a good answer to a tricky question. For purposes of constructions like the one the OP asks about, the problem is that the the in "the United States of America" isn't handled as part of the name in the same way it is in, say, The Dalles, Oregon. In the latter case (I think) we would probably say "in nineteenth-century The Dalles," not "in the nineteenth-century Dalles"—but idiomatically the the in the country name doesn't command the same result. I don't know that we can point to a principal of capitalization to defend the different treatment; it's just how we deal with it. – Sven Yargs Apr 5 '15 at 20:26
  • 1
    @SvenYargs Surely the simple point is that United States, like the Solomon Islands takes the definite article whilst America, Britain, France, Germany etc doesn't. – WS2 Apr 5 '15 at 21:15
  • @WS2: Maybe I'm off-base. I agree with your central point (which is tchrist's as well), but I perhaps erroneously see a distinction between "developments in the mid-twentieth-century Soviet Union [or United States or United Kingdom or Solomon Islands" and "developments in mid-twentieth-century The Hague [or The Dalles]." In any case I don't want to muddy the waters surrounding the main point in the OP's question, so it might be better if I withdrew my comment above. What do you think? – Sven Yargs Apr 5 '15 at 21:29
  • 1
    @SvenYargs No don't delete. It is a good point you make, though I would have understood it better had you used The Hague as your example (I had never heard of The Dalles). The definite article is part of the name in those cases where it clearly isn't in the case of Soviet Union, United Kingdom, United States and the Falkland Islands. At least I don't think anyone would say 'in the nineteenth-century Hague', would they? – WS2 Apr 6 '15 at 6:35

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.