The? TheTheTheThe ... Sometimes it's just "the"

I’m editing a document and I’m getting pissed off at this “The” disease that so many people seem to have picked up – The Beatles, The Beach Boys, The Byrds, The Ohio State University. It doesn’t matter if it’s part of the formal name. In a sentence, you treat the article as an ordinary article. Downcap it!

Thank you

But what about The The?

I had always thought it should have been capitalized, since it’s part of the formal name.


ETA: This is a general response to the thread; not specifically to the above post.

Is this supposed to apply to other articles (e.g., “a”), as well? That is, should I not capitalize the “a” in A Scanner Darkly?

If so, I think this is a silly rule. I’m prepared to revolt.

Couldn’t you have just encapsulated these bands under the phrase “The Them”?

Actually, I’m not sure I think this is a rule that applies to titles of books or movies or things like that–just a rule that applies to names of groups or colleges and things.

I can understand for cases like “the University of California”, since it’s not part of the actual name, but not for things like “The Beatles” where it is.

OTOH, I don’t think I’ve heard anyone say, “Yeah, I’m a The Beatles fan.” So maybe the “the” isn’t really a part of the formal name after all…

The New York Times uses “The” in its masthead but The New Yorker doesn’t in referring to The New York Times.

Stylebook rules or some such.

This rule doesn’t apply to titles of creative works.

I will use it, with misgivings, before one noun. The Who. The Beatles. Ohio State can pound sand.

The AP Stylebook capitalizes the “The” in “The New York Times.” (Specifically, they say “capitalize the in a newspaper’s name if that is the way the publication prefers to be known.”) We were tested on this kind of stuff in J school. However, while I can’t find a specific cite for the Beatles or the Ohio State University, it seems to me from scanning online news sources that the lowercase the is preferred.

I’m not sure I agree with this pit. For the bands listed, “The” is part of the formal name. It is not Beatles, it is The Beatles (or The Who). However, it would be the Led Zeppelin (if you ever had cause to use it in that manner.

You are correct about the AP Stylebook rule going with a particular paper’s preference. I realized I might have been a bit unclear in my post but I was simply mentioning that The New Yorker’s stylebook choice does not capitalize or italicize “the” (of course) of any newspaper, even if that’s the way they’re known.

Did I mention I once saw the Dave Matthews Band in concert in Central Park for free?

Even when “The” is part of the title? Like The Stand, The Wizard of Oz, The Godfather, etc. etc.?

…but the psychic scars will never heal…


First, I don’t agree that the “formal” name (whatever that means in this context) is “The Beatles.” They are the Beatles. The “the” is there because English grammar demands it, not because it’s a necessary part of the name.

Second, even if that’s not the case, that’s not the “the” that’s appearing in the sentence.

In a sentence, the “the” is just a definite article, not the “The” that is part of the formal name. In English we use definite articles as a function of the characteristic of the language. That the article might also be part of a formal name is secondary. So “I met the Beatles in 1964” – the “the” is necessary, because we don’t say “I met Beatles in 1964.” Add to that that English doesn’t allow for “I met the The Beatles in 1964,” and you have to drop one of the articles. The logical one to drop is the second one, because it’s not playing a necessary grammatical role in the sentence.

As Bill Walsh says: The “the” is not the “The” that’s part of the formal name. Rather, "it’s an unrelated word that, coincidentally, happened to be in the same place as an identically spelled word that often is related (and capitalized).

Third, as a side issue, entities like rock and roll bands rarely have “formal” names in the way that people do (where is the organizational charter that declares the name to be “The Beatles” instead of “Beatles”)?

AuntiePam, I fear you misunderstood my statement that the rule does not apply for titles of creative works (that are italicized or in quotation marks).

  • King’s novel The Stand was made into a critically acclaimed television movie.
  • I really like Thunderclap Newman’s song “The Reason.”

In both those cases, the “the” is not playing a grammatical role in the sentence.

If the band’s name were just Beatles, that’s exactly what you’d say.

“I met Led Zeppelin in 1972.”
“I met Kings of Leon in 2005.”

Look at the covers of Sgt Pepper, Magical Mystery Tour, and Abbey Road (back cover). The name is presented there as “Beatles” with no definite article.

They ducked the issue entirely on With the Beatles, which is spelled in all lower case on the cover.

What about, “I met Queen in 1980” as opposed to, “I met the Queen in 1980”?

Which one is talking about the band and which one about Elizabethh II?

But the thing is, the Beatles weren’t called “The Beatles”, they were Beatles - they consisted of four individual Beatles. John was a Beatle. Paul, George and Ringo: also Beatles. Seeing as those were all the Beatles there were, all four of them together were “the Beatles”, and not, say, “a bunch of Beatles” or “some Beatles”. Saying “the Beatles” is like saying “the Republicans” or “the Dopers.” I mean, gramatically. Beatles Beatles Beatles.