- For Teachers
Do you need to put "the" in front of an organization's name? For example,
Harvard University or THE Harvard University
Microsoft Corporation or THE Microsoft Corporation
University of Michigan or THE University of Michigan
I often found both usages in newspaper and spoken English. Any help will be very much appreciated. Thanks.
good afternoon, spaceniuzai.
(1) I am very sorry to tell you that there is no easy "rule."
(2) The whole thing, in many respects, is idiomatic. That is, the majority of speakers decide what needs a "the" and what doesn't.
(a) For example, when I was young, Americans referred to The Lebanon. Today people would laugh if you said, "I want to visit The Lebanon."
(3) Let's look at your three examples:
(a) All my life I have heard and read things such as: Harvard University is the best university in the United States; You graduated from Harvard? Wow! You must be smart; Does Harvard University have the best professors? In other words, native speakers NEVER use "the."
(i) I really should not say "never." There is an exception:
TOM: Do you like Harvard?
SUE: It's OK. But it's not THE Harvard University that I remember (when I was a student there 40 years ago). It seems totally different.
(ii) Harvard was named for a man, John Harvard. So maybe (maybe!!!) that may be one reason for not using "the."
(b) The University of Michigan is not so famous as Harvard, but if I remember correctly, people always refer to it with "the." Just to make sure, I checked its website: It calls itself THE.
(c) Your last example is the most problematic (many problems):
(i) If you just say "Microsoft," then "the" is very strange: I hope to work for Microsoft; Microsoft, some people say, has changed the world; Is your company as famous as Microsoft?
(ii) But when it comes to "The Microsoft Corporation" or "Microsoft Corporation, " I don't know what the correct answer is.
(a) I checked the Web.
(i) Some use "The"; some don't.
(ii) I have NO proof, but I think that when that company started, most people probably called it "The." Since Americans like to make their language as efficient as possible, I think that many (most?) people are now dropping "The." Here are some examples found on the Web: lawsuit filed against Microsoft Corporation; Microsoft Corporation is a multinational ...; Microsoft Corporation announced...
(iii) They all sound "natural" to me. In fact, using "the" is starting to sound "strange." (P.S. I think THE NEW YORK TIMES -- our most important paper -- still uses "The." Of course, some people say that it often uses old-fashioned English. )
I respectfully suggest that the best way to understand this very difficult subject is: get some general rules in good grammar books; speak with native speakers; ask specific questions at this website; and -- of course -- check the World Wide Web.
Have a nice day!
Spaceniuzai, And I thank YOU for taking the time to respond so kindly to my answer. Have a nice day.