I saw several posts about usage of "the" before acronyms, but I still haven't found any answer on my question. Let's say I developed a System for Definitions' Retrieval (SDR). So, should I refer to it as "the SDR" or just "SDR"?

The sentence is:

Integration of (the/a/?) SDR database with lexical (synonyms, antonyms, etc.) databases.

  • 1
    I'd say an SDR. Commented Nov 21, 2012 at 10:02
  • 3
    Depends on context, again. It could be an SDR ("Let's say I developed an SDR") or the SDR ("Use the SDR I developed"). Please provide the actual sentence you are asking about.
    – Andrew Leach
    Commented Nov 21, 2012 at 10:10
  • If you develop the system, you get to call it whatever you are comfortable with. Just like you can call your company "The Microsoft" or "The Apple" if you so choose, and not just "Microsoft" or "Apple". On a broader note, since the name in question does not exist yet, it is impossible to tell what is proper and what is not, because what's proper and what's not is determined through usage, and the name hasn't been used yet.
    – RegDwigнt
    Commented Nov 21, 2012 at 10:15
  • Related: english.stackexchange.com/questions/1016/… Commented Nov 22, 2012 at 8:27
  • @AndrewLeach That (comment) can be a generic solution to the problem at hand. Why not post it as an answer?
    – Kris
    Commented Nov 22, 2012 at 9:43

2 Answers 2


In this contex, "SDR" appears in adjective context for "database", so the choice between the/a is strictly in classic context of "the database" or "a database" (depending on a broader context), and the acronym doesn't change a thing (except choice between a/an if that's what you pick; in this case the first letter of acronym is a vowel in pronunciation so an es-... ).

The situation would be different, if you abbreviated System for Definitions' Retrieval Database to SDRD - in that case you'd get to choose freely between Integration of SDRD and Integration of the/an SDRD (choice between the and an according to classic rules, if you integrate one random SDRD out of many, then an, if you pick a specific one, the)


We call the British Broadcasting Corporation 'the BBC' but the National Broadcasting Company 'NBC'. If you invent a new way of piping, I suggest you can call the tune.

  • See here: dailywritingtips.com/initialisms-and-acronyms
    – Louis Liu
    Commented Aug 28, 2015 at 8:37
  • Yes; the article is wrong. 'But initialisms require the' is far from being a rule. I state above that 'NBC' is used instead of 'the NBC', and you'll never hear a bald 'the ITV' in the UK. Also, 'laser' (an archetypal acronym) can be used as a count noun and be preceded by a or the. Commented Aug 28, 2015 at 15:53
  • So, as a learner of English grammar I would ask, what is the rule?
    – Louis Liu
    Commented Aug 29, 2015 at 7:42
  • There is sadly only one rule in English. Find out what accepted individual usages are. Here, the 'rule' given at your link will work pretty often, but what's the use of a 'rule' that lets you down unexpectedly? // In OP's example, as SF. says, the question doesn't arise. The initialism is a red herring; the question might as well be '[Should I use] "Integration of (the/a/?) new database ..."?' Commented Aug 29, 2015 at 10:57

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