In a list of titles that all start with the, does each need their own the or can they be shared?

Linguistics jargon: Is it possible to use a single D head and multiple NP conjuncts to mean the same thing as each NP forming their own DP with the same D?

For example, can this

I've lived in the United States, the United Kingdom, and the United Arab Emirates.

be rewritten as this

I've lived in the United States, United Kingdom, and United Arab Emirates.

This is more of a semantic question than a syntactic one because I'm pretty sure both are grammatical, but the concern is whether they are semantically equivalent.

  • 1
    Yes. ............
    – Ricky
    Oct 7, 2018 at 20:40
  • No! ..........- see the answer below from R Mac
    – TrevorD
    Oct 7, 2018 at 22:56
  • 1
    @TrevorD I don't think it's as simple as that. See my comments to his answer.
    – Zachary
    Oct 7, 2018 at 23:17

1 Answer 1


In the above examples, the article "the" is part of each actual place name. You would I ld never say "United States", "United Kingdom", or "United Arab Emirates" without the article, so you should include the article with each in a comma-separated list.

Other times, whether you include the article with each item will depend whether the same article applies to all items in the list. For example, the first sentence below uses the article for all items, while the second uses it only for the first. Notice you would infer the same meaning from the second as the first.

He delivered the ring, the flowers, and the rose petals.


He delivered the ring, flowers, and rose petals.

Either way is correct and acceptable.

In case where it does matter and you should definitely include the article for each item is if your list should use mixed articles. For example:

Please hand me the ketchup, a fork, and the butter.

Notice if you rephrase this to use only the first article, it sounds wrong.

Please hand me the ketchup, fork, and butter.

Finally, you should always include the article if the article is indefinite:

I would like a medium pepperoni pizza, a chocolate chip cookie, and a Pepsi.


I would like a medium pepperoni pizza, chocolate chip cookie, and Pepsi.

Note the second sentence doesn't make sense.

  • I have to disagree that thes are part of a name. For example, look at the Wikipedia page for the US; not only is the title of the page "United States of America" as opposed to "The United States of America", the the is also not bolded at the beginning of the article. This is because the the is only there to make the title read better and isn't actually part of the name. I mean think about it this way--if it were part of the name, the Constitution would have to be called "The The United States Constitution".
    – Zachary
    Oct 7, 2018 at 23:10
  • Also, your first example isn't a very good test because the last two items are plural and thus sound fine without an article anyway. Something like this would be fairer: He delivered the ring, flower, and car. versus He delivered the ring, the flower, and the car. Moreover, the two sentences feel slightly different to me in that the flowers and petals seem a lot more definite in the first sentence whereas in the second it sounds like any flowers would do.
    – Zachary
    Oct 7, 2018 at 23:14
  • @Zachary The fact that "the" is not included in the title of the Wikipedia item is not definitive 'proof' that the word "The" is not part of the titles of the countries in question: titles are often abbreviated for ease of reference; when titles are/maybe sorted alphabetically, it would be stupid to prefix them with "The" as it would affect the display order. Also, if I recollect correctly, Wikipedia is not regard as a definitive source on this site (because anyone can contribute to it and change entries), although it may be regarded as a reference source. ... [contd]
    – TrevorD
    Oct 9, 2018 at 12:27
  • ... [cont'd from previous comment] In any case, the Wikipedia article you cite does prefix "United States" with "the" throughout the article. To me, that clearly suggests that - irrespective of whether "the" is part of the official name - it is normal practice to prefix the name with "the". Altho' @RMac may be wrong in stating that "the" is part of the official name, nevertheless it appears to be normal practice to prefix the three country names in question with "the" in normal prose (as in your cited Wikipedia article.)
    – TrevorD
    Oct 9, 2018 at 12:36
  • @TrevorD Firstly, only grammatical constructs can be abbreviated from titles, not parts of proper nouns. For example, Shakespeare's The Temptest is titled as such. Thus, the fact that is was dropped in the case of the United States is evidence that it's a grammatical construct that isn't part of the title. Second, Wikipedia is not a source for linguistic rules, but a example of it. It's exactly because anyone can edit it that it would display the most accepted linguistic conventions over time especially in popular articles. Third, the question was never about the use of the in prose. ...
    – Zachary
    Oct 9, 2018 at 17:16

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