This is known as definite article reduction. Etymology[ edit ] The and that are common developments from the same Old English system. The word the as in phrases like "the more the better", has a distinct origin and etymology and by chance has evolved to be identical to the definite article.
Geographical names[ edit ] An area in which the use or non-use of the is sometimes problematic is with geographic names. Names of rivers, seas, mountain ranges, deserts, island groups archipelagoes and the like are generally used with the definite article the Rhine, the North Sea, the Alps, the Sahara, the Hebrides.
Names of continents, individual islands, countries, regions, administrative units, cities and towns mostly do not take the article Europe, Skye , Germany, Scandinavia, Yorkshire, Madrid.
However, there are certain exceptions: Countries and territories the names of which derive from common nouns such as "kingdom" or "republic" take the article: The singular Greenland on the other hand doesn't take the definite article, neither does Christmas Island or Norfolk Island. Certain countries and regions the names of which derive from mountain ranges, rivers, deserts, etc.
Since the independence of Ukraine formerly sometimes called the Ukraine , most style guides have advised dropping the article  in some other languages there is a similar issue involving prepositions. Use of the Argentine for Argentina is considered old-fashioned. Some names include an article for historical reasons, such as the Bronx , or to reproduce the native name the Hague. Names beginning with a common noun followed by of may take the article, as in the Isle of Wight or the Isle of Portland compare Christmas Island.
The same applies to names of institutions: Cambridge University, but the University of Cambridge. Abbreviations for "the" and "that"[ edit ] Since "the" is one of the most frequently used words in English, at various times short abbreviations for it have been found: Occasional proposals have been made by individuals for an abbreviation.
As a result, the use of a y with an e above it as an abbreviation became common. This can still be seen in reprints of the edition of the King James Version of the Bible in places such as Romans Historically, the article was never pronounced with a y sound, even when so written.