Articles with Proper Nouns

In this article, we will have a look at the use of articles with various Proper Nouns.

Articles with Proper Nouns

We usually use zero article before most proper nouns, i.e. we do not use any article with them.

But there are many exceptions to this rule.

Let us study the rules and their exceptions one by one.

Person or Place

We do not use any article with the names of any person or place.

Anand was an awesome player.
Harappa was an ancient civilization.

But there are a few exceptions to this rule. That is, we do use articles a/an before names of person or place in some cases. Let’s see them one by one.

Exception 1

Pattern: a/an/one/some + Proper Noun

It gives an indication of two things:

  • Someone
  • Nothing is known about the person, except the name

A Mr. Sharma has been selected for the prize.
Some Mr. Sharma has been selected for the prize. (we can use both ‘some’ and ‘a’; both are correct)

Use of a/an or some/one indicates that Mr. Sharma is not known to the speaker and he knows only the name that has been conveyed to him.

Exception 2

Pattern: a/an + Proper Noun

It may also mean - like one / similar to. Here proper noun works as a common noun.

He considers himself to be a Shakespeare.

We also use this pattern to refer to a painting by a famous artist, e.g., ‘a Van Gogh’.

Exception 3

Pattern: the + Proper Noun

We use this pattern in the following cases:

Case I:

When the name of a person or place represents a set of qualities (rather than that individual person/place) which is used for comparative purpose, ‘the’ comes before that proper noun.

He is the Hitler of Turkey.
Kanpur is the Manchester of India

Shakespeare is a Kalidas of England. (incorrect)
Shakespeare is the Kalidas of England. (correct)

Case II:

We use ‘the’ with the name of a person:

  • when we want to specify that person in a group or
  • when we want to emphasise that a person is the one that everyone probably knows about.

That’s not the Arnold Cooper I went to college with.

You are talking about the Neil Armstrong, aren’t you?

Cities, States, Countries, Continents and Nationality

Concept 1

‘The’ is not used with the name of any continent, country or city.

For example: Europe, India, Russia, China, Delhi, London etc.

However, there are some exceptions.

Exception 1

‘The’ comes before the names of a few countries and cities.

For example: The Netherlands, The Hague.

Exception 2

If ‘Union’, ‘United’, ‘Republic’ or ‘Kingdom’ comes with the name of a country, ‘the’ is used.

For example: The United Kingdom (U.K.), The United States of America (U.S.A.), The Soviet Union, The Irish Republic.

Concept 2

‘The’ does not come with the names of States.

Exception: ‘The Punjab’.

Concept 3

We use ‘the’ before ‘nationality’ - it implies the people of that nation, i.e. that community.

But we do not use any article with the name of any ‘language’.

The English speak English. (i.e. the Citizens of England speak English language)
The English defeated the French in World War I.

Natural structures

Concept 1

We use ‘the’ before the names of mountain ranges.

For example: The Himalayas, The Alps.

Exception 1

We do noy use ‘the’ before the names of individual mountain peaks and hills.
For example: Mt. Everest, Mt. Abu.

Exception 2

We do not use ‘the’ before Aravali, as it is not a mountain range.

Concept 2

We use ‘the’ before the names of deserts.

For example: the Sahara Desert, the Thar

Concept 3

We use ‘the’ before the names of following proper nouns (related to water):

  • Names of Rivers: the Yamuna, the Ganga, the Nile, the Sutlej.

  • Names of Seas: the Arabian sea, the Black sea.

  • Names of Oceans: the Indian Ocean, the Pacific Ocean, the Atlantic Ocean.

  • Names of Bays: the Bay of Bengal.

  • Names of Canals: the Suez Canal.

  • Names of Groups of Islands (not single island): the Lakshdweep, the Andaman and Nicobar Islands.

We do not use ‘the’ with a single island.

Concept 4

We use ‘the’ before the names of Heavenly Objects:
E.g. the Sun, the Venus


Concept 1

We do not use any article before the names of body parts.


We can use ‘the’ before parts of body only when a possessive adjective is replaced by any article.

E.g. He was wounded in his/the eye.

Concept 2

We do not use any article before the names of a disease.

Exceptions: The Measles, The Rickets, The Mumps, The Plague, The Flu.


We use ‘the’ before the :

  • Names of Newspapers (if there is no ‘the’ already in the name of the newspaper):
    E.g. The Washington Post, The Hindu, The Times of India.

  • Name of a movie (if there is no ‘the’ already in the name of the movie):
    I saw the Titanic.
    I saw the Animal.

  • Names of holy books:
    E.g. The Gita, The Bible.


We use ‘the’ before the :

  • Names of Dynasty:
    E.g. The Marathas, the Peshwas.

  • Names of Era:
    E.g. The Middle Ages

  • Names of Movements/Revolutions/Wars:
    E.g. The Quit India Movement, The French Revolution

Politics, Polity and Organizations

We use ‘the’ before the :

  • Names of Political Parties:
    E.g. the BJP, the Congress.

  • Names of Statutes/Acts:
    E.g. the Indian Penal code, the Legislature.

  • Name of an Organization/Industry:
    E.g. the United Nations, the Railways

  • Names of Army/Police:
    E.g. the Army, the Police.


We use ‘the’ before directions, if there is no country name attached with direction and there is a preposition before the name of the direction.

He went to the South.
The sun rises in the east.
He is at the back.
He turned to the left.

Exception 1

We do not use ‘the’ if direction comes before the name of any place.

He is working in the West Bengal. (incorrect)
He is working in West Bengal. (correct)

He lives in the South India. (incorrect)
He lives in South India. (correct)

Exception 2

We do not use any article before Northern, Southern, Eastern, Western (as they are adjectives). These will not take any article unless followed by a suitable noun.

Assam is in Eastern India.
He is going to North America.


We use ‘the’ before the names of Posts.

E.g. the chairman, the director

But there are quiet a few exceptions to this rule. Let’s have a look at these.

Exception 1

A/An can also be used before the names of the posts if we are talking about one out of many similar posts.

He is a CEO of many companies.

‘The’ is used when we need to give importance to someone or specify someone.

Compare these two sentences:

Modi is a prime minister. (one of many prime ministers)
Mr. Modi is the prime minister of India. (the one and only prime minister of India)

Exception 2

We do not use any article if the name of the rank holder follows the rank.

Compare these two sentences:

The Prime Minister gave the statement.
Prime minister, Mr Modi made a statement.

Holidays, times of the year/month/week/day, date, meals, etc

Concept 1: Holiday/Season/Time

We do not use any article when talking about last or next holiday/season/time.

When will we have Deepawali this year?
All of my cousins will be here on Christmas. (i.e. next Christmas)

I will see you on Tuesday. (i.e. next Tuesday)
She met me on Tuesday. (i.e. last Tuesday)

But there are some exceptions to this rule. Let’s see them.

Exception 1

When we talk about a particular holiday/time, we use ‘the’ to specify which one.

We left for our honeymoon the Sunday after our wedding. (the day has been specified)
We first met at the Easter of 2015.
I was born in the summer of 1969.

We say ‘in the New Year’ to mean at or near the beginning of next year.

We will see you again in the New Year.

Exception 2

When we are not interested in any particular holiday/season/time, but we refer to them in general, we use ‘a/an’.

I was born on a Thursday as far as I know. (we are only interested in the day of the week, not which particular Thursday)

When we want to describe the features of a particular holiday, season, etc., we use ‘a/an’.

That was a winter we will never like to recall.

Concept 2: Times of the day

We use ‘the’ and ‘a/an’ in the usual way when we talk about the morning/afternoon/evening of a particular day.

We are supposed to be at the farewell in the afternoon.

Now, let us see the exceptions.

Exception 1

We do not use any article with ‘at night’ and ‘by night’.

You should avoid going out at night.

But with other prepositions we can use ‘the’.

I studied all through the night.

Exception 2

We do not use any article with midnight, midday, and noon.

If I work hard, I will probably complete this assignment by midday.

Concept 3: Meals

We do not use any article before names of meals when they are used in a general sense.

Will you like to have dinner with me?

Lunch is ready.

Exception 1

If there is an adjective before breakfast, lunch, dinner, etc. - We use article ‘a’

I had a late dinner yesterday. (late - adjective)

Exception 2

When we talk about a formal dinner or lunch for a special occasion, we use ‘a dinner’ or ‘a lunch’.

We are having a dinner to welcome the CEO.


Concept 1: Airways/Trains

We use ‘the’ before the names of Airways/Trains (if there is no ‘the’ already in the name):

E.g. the Jet Airways, the Rajdhani Express.

Concept 2: Inventions

We use ‘the’ before the names of Inventions.

E.g. the telescope, the telephone.

The telephone was invented by Graham.

Concept 3: Religion

We use ‘the’ before the names of Religion.

E.g. the Hindus, the Sikhs

Concept 4: Trophies/Cups

We use ‘the’ before the names of Trophies/Cups.

E.g. the World Cup.

Concept 5: Unique things

We use ‘the’ before the names of things that are unique.

E.g. the world, the universe, the environment, the atmosphere.

Concept 6: Musical Instruments

We use ‘the’ before the names of Musical Instruments.

E.g. the flute, the violin.

We can use ‘the’ while we are using a musical instrument.

I was beating the drum.
I was playing the piano.

But when we have to count a musical instrument, then we can use a/an or a number with it.

I have a guitar.

Concept 7: Monuments

We use ‘the’ before the names of monuments.

E.g. the Taj Mahal, the Red fort.

Concept 8: Systems

In general no article comes with the names of systems.

The in-laws asked for dowry.

Concept 9: No Article with these Proper Nouns

We do not use any article before these proper nouns:

  • Name of days and months: Sunday, Monday, February, August etc.

  • Names of subjects: Maths, Physics etc.

  • Names of roads (main roads or roads which include an adjective in their name): Mall road, M.K. Road etc.

  • Names of meals: Lunch, Dinner etc.

  • Names of Hobbies: Gardening, Singing etc.

  • Names of Games: Hockey, Cricket etc.

Extra Books and Tools

If you prefer to learn via books, or want some good English Grammar books for reference purposes, you may read this article which enlists some of the books recommended by us.
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