As a part-time English tutorial teacher who isn't specialized in language, I would like to ask about article usage for proper nouns and abbreviations.

Do you add 'the' for the following sentences?
"I have just returned from _____ Massachusetts Institute of Technology."
"I have just returned from _____ Hong Kong."
"I have just returned from _____ MIT."
"I have just returned from _____ HK."

The reason of asking this question is because from where I live (Hong Kong), we have a public transportation named MTR (Mass Transit Railway), which we always seem to add 'the' before 'MTR'. (Example text: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/MTR)
'The MTR' also appears in one of my students' text book. ("I go to school by the MTR.")

I am a bit confused by the article usage before abbreviation. My guess is:
'The' for organizations/companies;
No 'The' for location and individual's name;

But I still do not know if 'the' is needed for algorithms. For instance I am writing an academic paper about Neural Network. Should I put 'the' in front of NN?
(ie: The prediction is then carried out by ______ NN.)

I would like to hear your thoughts about article usage for abbreviations. Thanks in advance!!!
(Also I may have made some mess in the question, apologies to you who read this but passed by before.)

My confusion continues as I read more stuff:

Organization and Companies: (full name)
"Dragonair became a wholly owned subsidiary of Cathay Pacific after completion..."
Meanwhile: "A charter for the incorporation of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology..."

But there is some new understanding that I would like to share:
When a proper noun/abbreviation is used to describe an object, the article usage will follow the object unless it's a location.
E.g.: an HMO facil­ity, a SWAT team
Exception on location: "It started operations in July 1985 with a Boeing 737-200 service from Kai Tak International Airport..."

I will keep on updating when more questions pop up in my head. Great thanks!

Update 2: I have marked this as duplicate with this link.

  • Interesting question! Welcome to English SE!
    – NL628
    Apr 14, 2018 at 2:43
  • Normally, none those would merit "the". However, in some circumstances "the" would be optional for Massachusetts Institute of Technology. As for the names of transit operations, ask The Kingston Trio;
    – Hot Licks
    Apr 14, 2018 at 2:51
  • PS: I'm pretty sure this question has been asked before ... about a dozen times.
    – Hot Licks
    Apr 14, 2018 at 3:03
  • @HotLicks I am aware that lots of people asked about articles before proper noun. The main focus of this question is on the abbreviation. Nonetheless I would like to confirm my understanding in article use for proper noun. If you happen to spot a related question please let me know. Thanks!!
    – Kim Lum
    Apr 14, 2018 at 12:39
  • @HotLicks Thanks! I think it clears out some of my doubts. Would you mind if I ask if 'MIT' is an initialism and 'Two days after MIT was chartered...' needs a 'the' for it?
    – Kim Lum
    Apr 14, 2018 at 13:51

1 Answer 1


Although not an English whiz, something I noted:

The article the is placed before objects or things no matter if there are multiple or just one. For example, Mass Transit Railway is a thing, so you would still call it "The MTR" as it is an object. There could exist a MTR in Antarctica, for all anyone cared. The one you and people around you call would still be "The MTR."

On the other hand,

MIT, Hong Kong, Europe are all places, so you would not put a "The" in front of them.

But, I can find a single exception to the "places rule."

The United States of America is most often preceded with a "the." Also, "The United Kingdom" and "The United Arab Emirates" are also both preceded with "the." One thing I can deduce about this exception is that they are all plural as they are a group of states or areas.

I apologize if this answer is incorrect in any way, as this is my first answer on English SE and I am learning! :D

  • I read the wiki article for MIT. It sometimes uses 'the' for the full name (ie: A charter for the incorporation of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology...), but never on the short form. The point on ('the'?)'US' is interesting. After reading wiki article about US, it mentions that "The US has numerous clusters of cities known as megaregions..." Of course wiki is not written by the best native speaker, but it's probably the easiest way to find examples for abbreviation usage.
    – Kim Lum
    Apr 14, 2018 at 12:51
  • There are some more countries which are (sometimes) preceded by the, for example: the Ukraine and the Congo.
    – JJJ
    Apr 14, 2018 at 13:37
  • @jjj Using the definite article with Ukraine and Sudan can be taken as something of an insult, as had been covered in other questions.
    – choster
    Apr 14, 2018 at 13:53
  • @JJJ Thanks for the read! I think 'the' for Ukraine is used to emphasize. 'The' Congo is an exception in the system. (But to be honest I don't know about the Congo and after this, I will probably use 'Congo' without 'the'.)
    – Kim Lum
    Apr 14, 2018 at 13:56
  • @KimLum if I read the comments on the answer I linked the definite article with Congo and Gambia seems to originate from the rivers the countries are named after. In case of Ukraine it seems to be (according to another answer to that question) that the Ukraine was used to refer to an area before Ukraine became a country.
    – JJJ
    Apr 14, 2018 at 14:19

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