Using "the" before well-known churches

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Lekro

Member
Greek
Hello guys
I've got a question. As we use "the" before famous buildings (e.g. the Empire State building or the Eiffel tower) should we use that before churches too?
Can someone explain to me, please?
 
  • entangledbank

    Senior Member
    English - South-East England
    Many churches begin with a saint's name. This is a possessive, so cannot be used with 'the':

    my pen
    the pen
    :cross:the my pen / my the pen

    St Paul's Cathedral
    also, not possessive, but similar:
    Notre Dame Cathedral

    But a few don't have this sort of name, so they can be made definite: the Hagia Sophia. Also, the name can be the other way around, with the saint joined with 'of'. In this case there is no possessive, so there is 'the': the Cathedral of Notre Dame.
     

    Lekro

    Member
    Greek
    Many churches begin with a saint's name. This is a possessive, so cannot be used with 'the':

    my pen
    the pen
    :cross:the my pen / my the pen

    St Paul's Cathedral
    also, not possessive, but similar:
    Notre Dame Cathedral

    But a few don't have this sort of name, so they can be made definite: the Hagia Sophia. Also, the name can be the other way around, with the saint joined with 'of'. In this case there is no possessive, so there is 'the': the Cathedral of Notre Dame.
    So we can use the before some of the well-known churches like the Hagia Sophia or the Westminster Abbey. But I see these names without "the" in some websites like Wikipedia. How native English speakers prefer? to use "the" or not?
     

    Uncle Jack

    Senior Member
    British English
    I recall a previous conversation on here regarding Hagia Sofia, for which I don't use an article, but I appear to be in the minority.

    It is very difficult to think of any churches which aren't named for the place they are in or use a possessive, usually of a saint's name, neither of which take a definite article. There's the Royal Chapel at Windsor Castle, and I suppose there must be others like this, where the tern is descriptive rather than something that has been chosen.

    There are a few "churches of", such as the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem, and it always possible to use this form for a church dedicated to a saint, but I cannot think of any that are true proper nouns with "the".
    So we can use the before some of the well-known churches like the Hagia Sophia or the Westminster Abbey
    No, not "the Westminster Abbey". It is "Westminster Abbey" (or, if you prefer, "the Collegiate Church of Saint Peter at Westminster", but no one will know what you mean by that).
     

    Lekro

    Member
    Greek
    Thank you.
    We are not allowed to say the Westminster Abbey because Westminster is a proper noun right?
    And how about Hallgrimskirkja? Is it possible to say the Hallgrimskirkja? Which one sounds natural to native English speakers?
     

    The Newt

    Senior Member
    English - US
    Thank you.
    We are not allowed to say the Westminster Abbey because Westminster is a proper noun right?
    And how about Hallgrimskirkja? Is it possible to say the Hallgrimskirkja? Which one sounds natural to native English speakers?
    I wouldn't use the article. Unless I'm mistaken the name itself incorporates a genitive, so it would be odd to precede it with an article.
     

    Szkot

    Senior Member
    UK English
    Whereas I would probably say the Hallgrimskirkja - it just sounds right to me. Likewise the Thomaskirche (Leipzig) and the Westerkerk (Amsterdam) are widely used.
     

    Uncle Jack

    Senior Member
    British English
    We are not allowed to say the Westminster Abbey because Westminster is a proper noun right?
    Eiffel is a proper noun, but it is the Eiffel Tower. "Westminster" is a place name, and proper nouns of the form [place name] [type of building] generally do not use a definite article. There are exceptions, such as "the New York Stock Exchange", and "the London Coliseum", but most buildings and other structures such as churches, cathedrals, abbeys, minsters, castles, bridges, town halls, halls, manors, museums, airports, railways stations and zoos do not have articles when they are preceded by the name of the place they are named after.
     

    Lekro

    Member
    Greek
    Eiffel is a proper noun, but it is the Eiffel Tower. "Westminster" is a place name, and proper nouns of the form [place name] [type of building] generally do not use a definite article. There are exceptions, such as "the New York Stock Exchange", and "the London Coliseum", but most buildings and other structures such as churches, cathedrals, abbeys, minsters, castles, bridges, town halls, halls, manors, museums, airports, railways stations and zoos do not have articles when they are preceded by the name of the place they are named after.
    I've learned many things about "The" up to now but I think there are still some more :)
    I've googled whether to use "the" before bridges and realized Americans usually put "the", but people in the UK do not.
    They even put the before London bridge.

    Does it sound odd to you (as a British) if someone says "the London bridge"? (Though you know Americans do)
     

    heypresto

    Senior Member
    English - England
    You've given no sentence or context, but if you are talking about the bridge called 'London Bridge', yes it sounds odd/wrong to say 'the London Bridge'.

    We do however, have bridges with 'the' in the name:

    The Tyne Bridge.
    The Forth Bridge.
    The Severn Bridge.
    The Clifton Suspension Bridge.
    The Millennium Bridge.
    And no doubt many others around the country.

    But the complete sentence and context will often affect the use of 'the' with bridges, or other types of structure. Maybe 'the London Bridge' correct in the context you saw it in? Where did you see it?

    I don't think you can invent 'rules' or BE/AE differences that will apply to everything all the time.
     

    Lekro

    Member
    Greek
    You've given no sentence or context, but if you are talking about the bridge called 'London Bridge', yes it sounds odd/wrong to say 'the London Bridge'.

    We do however, have bridges with 'the' in the name:

    The Tyne Bridge.
    The Forth Bridge.
    The Severn Bridge.
    The Clifton Suspension Bridge.
    The Millennium Bridge.
    And no doubt many others around the country.

    But the complete sentence and context will often affect the use of 'the' with bridges, or other types of structure. Maybe 'the London Bridge' correct in the context you saw it in? Where did you see it?

    I don't think you can invent 'rules' or BE/AE differences that will apply to everything all the time.
    "In 1967, the Common Council of the City of London began to look for potential buyers for the London Bridge"
    So you're telling me I should use the with most bridges but the ones that have place names with them. (Just like towers)
    For example:
    The Golden Gate bridge
    Arta bridge (In Greece)
     

    Uncle Jack

    Senior Member
    British English
    You've given no sentence or context, but if you are talking about the bridge called 'London Bridge', yes it sounds odd/wrong to say 'the London Bridge'.

    We do however, have bridges with 'the' in the name:

    The Tyne Bridge.
    The Forth Bridge.
    The Severn Bridge.
    The Clifton Suspension Bridge.
    The Millennium Bridge.
    And no doubt many others around the country.
    There might also be an element of familiarity. I used to live near Bristol and would never dream of referring to "the" Clifton Suspension Bridge. Even Severn Bridge often lost its article.
    In 1967, the Common Council of the City of London began to look for potential buyers for the London Bridge"
    Which, famously, the eventual buyer thought was actually Tower Bridge (also no article), which is the next bridge downstream from London Bridge.
     

    heypresto

    Senior Member
    English - England
    There might also be an element of familiarity.
    :thumbsup: Good point.

    So you're telling me I should use the with most bridges but the ones that have place names with them.
    No, I'm suggesting that, in general, you use the official name of whatever bridge you are talking out.

    But again, context, the full sentence, and, as Uncle Jack points out, familiarity, might make the use or non use of the article more appropriate.
     

    Lekro

    Member
    Greek
    There might also be an element of familiarity. I used to live near Bristol and would never dream of referring to "the" Clifton Suspension Bridge. Even Severn Bridge often lost its article.
    Thank you
    Can you explain to me more about "the element of familiarity here" please?

    No, I'm suggesting that, in general, you use the official name of whatever bridge you are talking out.
    You mean "the" is one part of their name?
     

    heypresto

    Senior Member
    English - England
    Can you explain to me more about "the element of familiarity here" please?
    I might call it 'the Severn Bridge', say, or 'the Clifton Suspension Bridge' but someone (like Uncle Jack) who lives close to them, might not include the articles.

    Maybe people living close to the Forth Bridge refer to it without the article, who knows? If they live very close to it, I would imagine they would just call it 'the bridge'.

    But if in doubt, if you use the official name for the bridge', you won't go wrong.
     

    Lekro

    Member
    Greek
    I might call it 'the Severn Bridge', say, or 'the Clifton Suspension Bridge' but someone (like Uncle Jack) who lives close to them, might not include the articles.

    Maybe people living close to the Forth Bridge refer to it without the article, who knows? If they live very close to it, I would imagine they would just call it 'the bridge'.

    But if in doubt, if you use the official name for the bridge', you won't go wrong.
    Thank you that was really clear.

    Why there is no "the" in their signs?
    e.g.
    unnamed.jpg
     

    JulianStuart

    Senior Member
    English (UK then US)
    Thank you that was really clear.



    Why there is no "the" in their signs?
    e.g. View attachment 44078
    Probably because it's a sign and it's old. 80+ years have passed and everyone around here calls it "The Golden Gate Bridge" when they talk about it. They also don't use "the" before any of the nouns on the sign :) Are you expecting every instance be the same and are you still trying to
    invent 'rules' or BE/AE differences that will apply to everything all the time.
     

    Uncle Jack

    Senior Member
    British English
    It is relatively rare for the definite article to be an official part of something's name, and as a result it is relatively rare for "the" to be capitalised. Having said that, people often don't know whether "the" is officially part of the name or not, so whether or not it is capitalised is often a guess.

    However, unofficially adding "the" to the names of things in everyday speech and writing is very common, although we don't generally do this for churches, as this thread shows.
     

    Lekro

    Member
    Greek
    It is relatively rare for the definite article to be an official part of something's name, and as a result it is relatively rare for "the" to be capitalised. Having said that, people often don't know whether "the" is officially part of the name or not, so whether or not it is capitalised is often a guess.

    However, unofficially adding "the" to the names of things in everyday speech and writing is very common, although we don't generally do this for churches, as this thread shows.
    Thank you so much

    Probably because it's a sign and it's old. 80+ years have passed and everyone around here calls it "The Golden Gate Bridge" when they talk about it. They also don't use "the" before any of the nouns on the sign :) Are you expecting every instance be the same and are you still trying to
    And thank you too
    Bro I don't want to invent rules or something. You just told me "the" is one part of bridge names and when I saw that sign this question suggested to me why there is no "the" then. I'm just a curious student :)
    One important thing that I have learned from English is: There are always exceptions. :)
     
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