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What is the reason of using "the" in the following sentence?

For example:

"It is from a report of the giant software company Microsoft."

I know that articles are not used with names of companis. Would not it be better to say like this:

"It is from a report of giant software company Microsoft"?

  • No it would not be better. The first one is far better. – 9fyj'j55-8ujfr5yhjky-'tt6yhkjj Jul 30 '17 at 11:20
  • '[A]rticles are not used with names of compani[e]s' should be '[A]rticles are not often used as determiners preceding company names'. Thus 'Microsoft is a large company' rather than 'the Microsoft is a large company'. But there are exceptions: 'ITV', but 'the BBC'. // 'The' is fine before 'giant software company', but the modern preference is probably to drop it in what some would call appositives. – Edwin Ashworth Jul 30 '17 at 16:58
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It's not exactly incorrect to omit "the" but it reads like Journalese - that is, like a piece of journalism written with the conventions of a journalist rather than an ordinary person.

You can complicate your example further by dropping "giant software":

"It is from a report of company Microsoft"

Now this reads as very odd, not at all native-speaker English. Whereas this does not seems so odd:

"It is from a report of the company Microsoft"

I'll use these two instead to elaborate. Here we have two noun phrases, "the company" and "Microsoft." These types of constructs, where we have two adjacent nouns are called appositions and this specific variety is called a restrictive apposition. There are many companies that could be "the company" but the one we're referring to in particular is Microsoft. Compare to the second restrictive apposition from the wiki article I linked above, where "the television show The Simpsons" is used as an example. The same concept applies in your question.

In short, "the giant software company" is your noun phrase and "Microsoft" is acting as a further descriptor of "the giant software company." The definite article "the" is required because "company" is your noun, not "Microsoft."

  • The thing is, the definite article is not required. Leaving it out changes nothing at all, except making it a bit more likely to be found in journalese. I don't want to point to Dan Brown as an example of good writing (because his writing style is anything but good), but he does write perfectly grammatically and idiomatically, and this precise construction without the article is ubiquitous in his books. So much so, even, that it has become a meme (“Famed historian Robert Langdon pressed the alarm clock and went back to sleep”). – Janus Bahs Jacquet Jul 30 '17 at 10:31
  • Removing the attributive modifiers is a red herring, because the construction that leaves out the article is only possible with appositions where the head has attributive modifiers. So yes, if you remove the modifiers, the article becomes required; but if you leave them in, it is optional. – Janus Bahs Jacquet Jul 30 '17 at 10:35
  • I explicitly stated that it's not required at the beginning of my post, but I pointed out that it's still unnatural. I think it's muddying the context to bring in a profession like historian for which it's more common to omit the article. In the context of "company Microsoft" this sounds, to me, as bizarre and not as the sort of phrase a native speaker would construct. I see what you're saying but I wanted to limit it to their context and explain why the article wasn't nonsensical as they seem to have inferred it might be. – Patrick Keenan Jul 30 '17 at 10:36
  • Yes, I was commenting on the final part of the answer where you do say it's required because the noun is company and not Microsoft. It would be more accurate to say that the noun phrase which the article determines is giant software company, not Microsoft, and this is why the article is possible, though not required. (For the record, it doesn't sound bizarre or unnatural to me, just a bit terse and, yes, journalese or Brownese.) – Janus Bahs Jacquet Jul 30 '17 at 10:41
  • If you want to stack comments I can't meaningfully reply. Referring to your second comment I don't think the article is actually necessary in my reconstructed sentence, it merely accentuates the difference between OP's examples by focusing on the core elements involved. Moreover this is not a good use of the term "red herring." I did not direct anyone towards something misleading - that would have been a red herring. If you believe you can offer a better response to the question, feel free to leave it as a top-level reply rather than a comment. I believe this banter will just invite confusion. – Patrick Keenan Jul 30 '17 at 10:42

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