"at" used with acronym: "at the" with the whole title?

chikorita

New Member
Spanish - Argentina
I find that generally it is said

"... new research carried at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology..."

but

"... new research carried at MIT..."

or in general, that "at the" is used when the whole name of an institution is explicitly written, but only "at" when the acronym is used.

Is this correct? Or should it be in any other way?

Thanks,
Cecilia
 
  • tamerlane

    Banned
    Russian, English
    Well, that's an interesting question. Never really thought of it before. The Internet does use "the" in front of the full name and does not - in front of the acronym. Would like to hear from native speakers.
     

    JamesM

    Senior Member
    I don't think it's as straightforward as that.

    For example:

    At GM = At General Motors
    At UCLA = At the University of California Los Angeles
    At CSULA = At Calfornia State University Los Angeles
    In DC = In the District of Columbia
    In LA = In Los Angeles
    At LAX = At Los Angeles International Airport
    At LAMWD = At the Los Angeles Municipal Water District

    I think you have to know the convention used for the full name in order to know whether the article is used or not.

    [edit]

    Conversely, there are many acronyms that require "the":

    The FBI, the CIA, the IRS, the EU, the UK

    However it's not always used, as in NATO or OPEC, for example. :)
     
    Last edited:

    sdgraham

    Senior Member
    USA English
    Welcome to the forum, chikorita

    But the "full name" rule doesn't fit with all of the above:

    At UCLA = At the University of California Los Angeles (or UCSB, UCB, etc.)
    At LAMWD = At the Los Angeles Municipal Water District

    (Note that MIT is not an acronym, i.e. pronounced "mitt." It's a set of initials pronounced em,eye,tee.)
     

    JamesM

    Senior Member
    At UCLA = At the University of California Los Angeles (or UCSB, UCB, etc.)
    At LAMWD = At the Los Angeles Municipal Water District
    I was trying to contrast examples that were related in my twisted little mind. :)

    (Note that MIT is not an acronym, i.e. pronounced "mitt." It's a set of initials pronounced em,eye,tee.)
    Good point! Many of these are initialisms, not acronyms. SD, can you think of an acronym that has "the" in front of it? I can't, offhand. That might be one rule of thumb that could be used as a guideline.
     

    sdgraham

    Senior Member
    USA English
    SD, can you think of an acronym that has "the" in front of it? I can't, offhand. That might be one rule of thumb that could be used as a guideline.
    That's a tough one, but I did come up with:

    The TOW (Tube-launched, Optically-tracked, Wire command data link) guided missile.

    The HEAT (High Explosive, Anti-Tank) recoil-less rifle ammunition.

    Back in the days of Digital Equipment Corporation computers, a "local user group" was called the LUG.

    If you're a pilot, you should know the FARS (federal aviation regulations) Pilots flying into major airports also listen to the ATIS (Automated Terminal Information Service)

    And, I'm not sure how many people pronounce the FAQS (faks) for "frequently asked questions."

    As a side note, the Central Intelligence Agency is an initialism in English, but an acronym in Spanish, which probably accounts for why the CIA is called "the company." (La Cia = "the company.")
     

    panjandrum

    Lapsed Moderator
    English-Ireland (top end)
    In addition to JamesM's examples, here are some where "the" is generally included:
    At, in or on the BBC...
    In the EU...
    ... the UN...

    One pair that illustrates, for me, the dilemma:
    BNC = British National Corpus
    COCA = Corpus of Contemporary American English

    It seems natural to me to refer to "the BNC", but not "the COCA".
     

    chikorita

    New Member
    Spanish - Argentina
    wow! thanks for all your comments.

    First, yes, I'm thinking on "initialisms" - I was not actually interested in acronyms (I didn't realize the difference between them till now).

    So I guess that the conclusion is that there is no rule?
    I thought now also, that looks like the BBC and the FBI always come with "the", whether in whole title form or as initialisms.

    However, universities and institutes seem to use "the" when the name is expanded, and no "the" when they appear as initialisms... however I agree with JamesM for what would be an exception to this rule-of-thumb (CSULA).

    I was also wondering whether this depends on the context or what comes before. But it seems it does not...
     

    JamesM

    Senior Member
    However, universities and institutes seem to use "the" when the name is expanded, and no "the" when they appear as initialisms... however I agree with JamesM for what would be an exception to this rule-of-thumb (CSULA).
    I honestly don't think this is a valid rule of thumb. More examples:

    WSU - Washington State University
    ISU - Iowa State University
    NYU - New York University


    It's probably a safe rule of thumb that "the" is required if the first word is "University". Other than that, I don't think you can say that "the" is used when the full name is written out.
     

    chikorita

    New Member
    Spanish - Argentina
    thanks JamesM, that sounds right. I just thought about this because I need to apply this on "Catalan Institute of Nanotechnology - CIN", and occasionally on "Institut Català de Nanotecnologia - ICN" (originally in catalan).

    Since it is a pretty new institute, with a non-native speaker crowd by far, I see random stuff used all the time... and that collapsed with the well established case of MIT.

    I would appreciate it if you can give me a final advice on this particular case. I would put it in the same bag with "starting with University"...

    And yes, thanks MuttQuad, you are totally right.
     
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