Picture some German university's arthistory department, and its official title would be "Kunsthistorisches Institut". "Kunsthistorisch" is an adjective, and "kunsthistorisches" is its nominative case. Moreover, "kunsthistorisches" is the strong declension case which is used without a definite article.

Now when I'd like to refer to said department's bibliography rules in an English text, I would have to use the definite article "the", which would be at odds with the strong declension in the institution's German name.

Still, what would be the correct alternative,

  • "...the bibliography rules of the 'Kunsthistorisches Institut'..." or
  • "...the bibliography rules of 'Kunsthistorisches Institut'...",

or would I even have to adapt to the appropriate German declension case (genitive or dative)? (My instinct makes me shudder.)

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    Patterning on British examples such as 'the Blind Institute', I'd add the article. 'Kunsthistorisches Institut' has been adopted into English in your English text. Commented Oct 20, 2016 at 17:40
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    Whether there's a general rule or not, which will sound correct to your audience? If 90% of your audience does not understand German, then there's your answer.
    – John Feltz
    Commented Oct 20, 2016 at 18:23
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    See also Should foreign words be inflected?
    – Mitch
    Commented Oct 20, 2016 at 19:06
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    @JohnFeltz I believe my audience will rather be 90% Germans, yet both alternatives sound bad to a German ear, so that line of reasoning won't help me much.
    – Turtle
    Commented Oct 20, 2016 at 20:09
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    @Turtle Well that's unfortunate. Turn it around and use the 's possessive instead? "Kunsthistorisches Institut's bibliographical rules..." You're going to have to break something somewhere.
    – John Feltz
    Commented Oct 20, 2016 at 20:46

1 Answer 1


In English, names headed by institute nearly always take "the"; hence my hometown has "the Kalamazoo Institute of Arts", "the Haenicke Institute for Global Education", etc.

Now, that's not a general rule for all nouns — for example, names headed by academy, college, and university can go either way — but German Institut is so close to English institute (and is likely to be pronounced simply as "institute" by English-speakers) that I think it sounds very odd without "the".

That said, since in your case the German name is very transparent (not very namelike), and it's not a top-level organization but is rather just a department of a larger one, I would suggest translating the name, and writing "the Art History Institute" (unless this department is already known in English under its German name, in which case you should look at existing usage to see whether it has "the").

  • I agree with the suggestion to dodge the problem by translating the whole name into English. Notice also that you can then append the German name parenthetically without worrying about articles: The Art History Institute (Kunsthistorisches Institut). You could also use "Department" instead of "Institute" in the English version, if that more accurately describes the place of this department/institute in the university. Commented Nov 13, 2016 at 7:48

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