Learn English – Why there is “the” before some names but not others


Is there a rule beyond the common "no the with proper nouns and names" for the following problem?

I saw the Empire State Building.

We went to the White House.

We saw the Golden Gate Bridge.


I went to Death Valley National Park.

I crossed Brooklyn Bridge.

Best Answer

For buildings, there are no clear rules. We say “The Eiffel Tower” but there’s no the in “Tokyo Tower”. We say “The White House” and “The New York Met”, but there’s no the in “Sydney Opera House”.

In general, we use the for proper nouns denoting:

  • plural names (The Simpsons, The Philippines, …)
  • any institution or establishment where part of the name is a noun denoting the kind of institution or establishment (The British Broadcasting Corporation, The White House, The French Republic, …)
  • newspapers (but not magazines)
  • rivers, canals, seas and oceans (but not lakes)

But note that we do not use the if there is an “’s” in the name, even when the apostrophe has been dropped. (St Paul’s Cathedral, Harrods Department Store, …)