Is there a rule beyond the common "no the with proper nouns and names" for the following problem?

I saw the Empire State Building.

We went to the White House.

We saw the Golden Gate Bridge.


I went to Death Valley National Park.

I crossed Brooklyn Bridge.


5 Answers 5


For buildings, there are no clear rules. We say “The Eiffel Tower” but there’s no the in “Tokyo Tower”. We say “The White House” and “The New York Met”, but there’s no the in “Sydney Opera House”.

In general, we use the for proper nouns denoting:

  • plural names (The Simpsons, The Philippines, …)
  • any institution or establishment where part of the name is a noun denoting the kind of institution or establishment (The British Broadcasting Corporation, The White House, The French Republic, …)
  • newspapers (but not magazines)
  • rivers, canals, seas and oceans (but not lakes)

But note that we do not use the if there is an “’s” in the name, even when the apostrophe has been dropped. (St Paul’s Cathedral, Harrods Department Store, …)

  • 1
    I’ve rewritten this answer to incorporate the information in the links in J.R.’s answer.
    – Pitarou
    Commented Feb 26, 2012 at 14:58
  • Think your last paragraph has gone off-beam. You yourself cite The Simpsons. And churches never take an article anyway. Shops are a whole new question; eg english.stackexchange.com/q/14796/8019 Commented Mar 8, 2012 at 14:27
  • @TimLymington The Simpsons is a plural, not an “’s”. I thought the churches rules was just an instance of the “’s” and institution rules, since most churches’ official names are something like “Saint John’s Church” or “The Church of Our Lady”.
    – Pitarou
    Commented Mar 8, 2012 at 14:37
  • 1
    @Pitarou I think you are trying to identify possessives when you say things "with an s". It's nota ohonetic criterion but a grannatical one.
    – Spencer
    Commented Jul 23, 2017 at 12:28
  • @TimLymingtonsupportsMonica What's wrong with "Harrods" example at your opinion? It was "Harrod's" and then rebranded into "Harrods". Thus, it have dropped "'s" and thus it looks as a valid example here.
    – john c. j.
    Commented Nov 22, 2019 at 11:23

These two references explain the use of "THE" with proper nouns rather nicely:

  • In the end, we usually go with what sounds most correct (although "The Ohio State University" may be an exception...)
    – J.R.
    Commented Feb 26, 2012 at 10:05
  • These references are better than the ones I linked to.
    – Pitarou
    Commented Feb 26, 2012 at 14:21
  • I took the liberty of rewriting my answer to incorporate the summary Jasper Loy asked for.
    – Pitarou
    Commented Feb 26, 2012 at 14:57
  • @Pitarou, then you should also edit the references into your answer Commented Sep 5, 2012 at 23:21

In American dialects it is the predominant habit to use "the" with structures (including "the Brooklyn Bridge," but to omit "the" with places that have less specific or pertinent boundaries (such as a National Park). Often, the use or omission of "the" conveys a particular nuance. "I went to Cowboys Stadium," implies that I went to the general location and/or to many places within the bounds of the place; whereas, "I went to the Cowboys Stadium" connotes a trip to the structure itself, maybe to examine or photograph it, perhaps.

More often than not, however, the use or omission of "the" simply reflects local, regional, or national idiomatic usage. British usage, for instance, says "He was in hospital following his accident"; while American usage is "He was in the hospital…" Likewise with "university"; British omits "the" while American inserts it.

Within America, within California even, denizens of the Los Angeles region insert "the" before freeway identifiers: "I took the 405," "I'm on the Santa Monica"; while San Francisco Bay Area residents say: "I took 101 north to the City," "I'm on Bayshore."


When it is one of a kind, we use the article: The Sun, The Moon, The Matterhorn. If the word has a title (Mt.), it does not take an article. Names from foreign languages take the article as translated: The Eiffle Tower. Oceans take the article: The Pacific, The Atlantic.

  • Why in The world are you capitalize The articles?? It’s just the White House, not ****The** White House*.
    – tchrist
    Commented Jun 21, 2013 at 17:22

According to the previous links, organisations should take 'the'. So its 'the CIA' and 'the FBI'. But what about 'MENSA', 'ISIS' and 'Mossad'? These are organisations, but don't take 'the'. A strange example of how to get this completely wrong is Mark Greaney's spy novels. The author consistently refers to the CIA and FBI without 'the', but talks about Mossad with and without 'the' on the same page. The main character in these books is called the Gray Man, except when the author refers to him as Gray Man. It is odd that a successful spy novelist can be so unaware of the rules, or even the conventions. Or perhaps this illustrates that the answer to the OP's question is, there is no rule.

  • This post doesn't answer the question. Answer boxes for meant for answers only. Sorry for the downvote, but it's the site's policy.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Commented Jul 23, 2017 at 11:00
  • If you have a question, ask a question. See the button near the top right off this page.
    – Hot Licks
    Commented Jul 23, 2017 at 12:31
  • It is odd that a successful spy novelist can be so unaware of the rules, or even the conventions. What are the "rules"? That there is no rule or convention?
    – Mari-Lou A
    Commented Jul 23, 2017 at 12:32
  • The rules are suggested in the links in JR's earlier post. I am merely posing the possibility that if someone writes a lot of succesful books which ignore the rules, then perhaps there are no rules.
    – RicB
    Commented Jul 23, 2017 at 13:34

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