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Why do sports teams take a definite article?

The New York Yankees

The Utah Jazz

The Orlando Magic

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American team names often include plural nouns, which would seem to lend themselves to the use of the definite article - The Yankees, for example. Animal names seem to be particularly common, and no doubt fans leave out the city name and simply refer to - The Bears, The Lions, The Colts, The Panthers, etc.

When British football teams have a second name, they are often things like City, United, which don't seem to take 'the' so naturally, and even when there is a plural descriptive noun, we don't tend to use 'the' - Bolton Wanderers, Glasgow Rangers, Doncaster Rovers.

There are a a couple of 'the's in rugby, though - The British Lions, the All Blacks (NZ). But these tend not to include a place name. I thought of the Harlequins (London), but on their website they refere to a match - Harlequins vs Exeter Chiefs, both lacking 'the'. On an animal note, the Leicester rugby union team refer to themselves as 'Leicester Tigers', and don't appear to use 'the', even when the city name is dropped. This is from the local newspaper - "Yet Tigers continue to get the job done, albeit in a scrappy way of late."

So it looks as though it's probably more down to culture and tradition than any linguistic reason.

Warsaw Will February 23, 2015, 4:48am

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Nice response Will.


:)

Hairy Scot February 23, 2015, 3:26pm

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What a great explanation! Thank you, Will. However, I've also seen American teams not using the plural such as: The Bolton Red Sox, The Miami Heat, the Orland Magic, etc. They still use a definite article. Could you please explain why? Is it because the head nouns are uncountable nouns? So, those teams use a singular form.

dwishiren February 23, 2015, 6:16pm

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What a great explanation! Thank you, Will. However, I've also seen American teams not using the plural such as: The Bolton Red Sox, The Miami Heat, the Orland Magic, etc. They still use a definite article. Could you please explain why? Is it because the head nouns are uncountable nouns? So, those teams use a singular form.

dwishiren February 23, 2015, 6:16pm

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As I ended up by saying, I think it's probably more about culture and tradition than linguistics, and you'd probably need to go back to the early history of American football, basketball and baseball to find the answer. It might just have been one college team that started the trend.

There seem to have been quite a lot of teams with plural nouns used with 'the' in the early days of American football. In Wikipedia there is a reference to the Virginia Cavaliers from 1887, the Georgia Bulldogs 1892, the Oklahoma Sooners 1895. And perhaps the habit simply spread to teams in general. Personally, I'd to look to history for your answer rather than to grammar.

Incidentally, sox singular? - They were originally the Boston Red Stockings. :)

Warsaw Will February 24, 2015, 1:30am

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Thanks, Will. Now I get it. I've another question about British team nicknames using an adjective. For example: the Blues (Chelsea), the Reds (Liverpool). I'm little confused because the adjectives are used with a plural form. But if there is a noun in front of the adjectives, I understand as it is just like the explanation above. An example of team nicknames using "adjective + noun": the Black Cats, the Red Devils, etc.

My question: are "the Blues" and "the Reds" an abbreviation of "the Blue/Red Lads"?

dwishiren February 24, 2015, 3:42am

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It simply comes from the colour strips or kits (AmE - uniforms) they wear. Here in Poland the national team is known as the Biało-Czerwoni (the White-Reds), the colours of the national flag and of their strips.

It seems that British football team nicknames do sometimes take 'the'. Fulham are blessed with the name 'the cottagers', for example. Several teams, for example Newcastle United, are called the Magpies, from their black and white strips, others are called the Robins, from their red strips, and a couple are known as the Tigers, from their striped kits.

Norwich City, on the other hand, seems to have changed the colour of their strip, from blue and white to yellow, to match their nickname 'The Canaries'.

Warsaw Will February 26, 2015, 2:45am

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Thank you. Hi Will, do the names of stadiums of a team also take "the"? My book says if there are the words "stadium" and "ground", then take "the": the Olympic Stadium, the Victoria Ground". But I have also seen even though there is the word "stadium" in front, the names don't use "the". I have no idea why. Could you explain?

At Busch Stadium.
At Wembley Stadium.
At Shah Alam Stadium, etc.

With "the"
The Academy Stadium.
The Britania Stadium.
The Etihad Stadium
The Nou Camp, etc.

dwishiren March 2, 2015, 4:14am

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Well, you've caught me out there. I teach foreigners English and write a blog on aspects of English, and one of my posts was about the use (or not) of 'the' in place names (a bit of a problem for learners). But after a quick check, I notice that although I have entries for "theatre, hall, bar, station" etc, "stadium" is noticeable by its absence.

But I'll go for the same rule as with theatres, airports, bridges etc. If it has name of the town or place where it is situated, then 'the' is unusual - Wembley Stadium, Twickenham Stadium (rugby union) - both Wembley and Twickenham are geographical areas of London, Murrayfield Stadium (centre of Scottish rugby; it's in an area of Edinburgh called Murrayfield).

However when a descriptive word or the name of a person comes first, 'the' is more likely. If I can take a theatre analogy, in Cambridge there's a theatre called "Cambridge Arts Theatre", while in London there's "The Cambridge Theatre", presumably called after a long-dead Duke of Cambridge.

Back to stadiums - in the UK we have "The Millenium Stadium, The Emirates Stadium, The Stadium of Light (Sunderland AFC), The Macron Stadium, The Madejski Stadium". Note that two, of these, Emirates and Macron, are called after their sponsors, and one of them, Madejski, after a hotel which is part of the stadium.

One stadium seems to neatly sum up this rule. Headingley stadium, named after the area of Leeds it is situated in, has long been famous in the world of rugby. Now it is "The Headingley Carnegie Stadium" due to their sponsorship by the Carnegie School of Sport Exercise and Physical Education, at Leeds Metropolitan University. No doubt as more and more stadiums start bearing the names of their sponsors, the defiite article will appear correspondingly more often.

Cricket, incidentally, has "The Oval" - after its shape, but "Lords", not called after some aristocrat, when you might expect "the", but after a certain Thomas Lord, so it sort of makes sense.

Once again, as with football, much if this comes from Wikipedia.

http://random-idea-english.blogspot.com/2013/08...

Warsaw Will March 2, 2015, 4:49am

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Thanks alot, Will. What a great explanation. Well, let me try to sum up your explanation so that this can be the rules of the use of "the" for stadiums. First, if it is related to the name of the town or place, geografical areas, then "the" is not used. Second, when a descriptive word of the name of a person comes first, then "the" is used. Third, if it is part of sponsors, then "the" is used. Well, are my summaries right, Teacher Will? I'm afraid to be wrong. But If I'm, please give me the clear rule.

dwishiren March 2, 2015, 8:03pm

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Thanks alot, Will. What a great explanation. Well, let me try to sum up your explanation so that this can be the rules of the use of "the" for stadiums. First, if it is related to the name of the town or place, geografical areas, then "the" is not used. Second, when a descriptive word of the name of a person comes first, then "the" is used. Third, if it is part of sponsors, then "the" is used. Well, are my summaries right, Teacher Will? I'm afraid to be wrong. But If I'm, please give me the clear rule.

dwishiren March 2, 2015, 8:04pm

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1. How about "the Britannia Stadium"? "Britannia" is an area in England, right? Why have to use "the"? I think this is just like Wembley Stadium.

2. The Hawthorns (West Brom), the Valley. These uses "the". Are they both part of a sponsor or the name of a person?

3.Old Trafford (Machester), Anfield (Liverpool), Villa Park,, etc. Are all of these stadiums of the names of the town or a place? They don't take "the".

Oh yes, I want you to add this use of "the" or not use in your blog.

dwishiren March 2, 2015, 8:46pm

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OK. First, there is no 100% rule when it comes to the use or not of 'the' in place names; there are always exceptions. So I was careful to use the word 'usually'. And I should say that all the stadiums I mentioned are in Britain. It may be different in other English-speaking countries.

1. The Brittania Stadium - No, Brittania is not a part of England, but the old Latin name for the island of Britain. But in this case, the stadium owes its name to its sponsor, the Britannia Co-operative Bank.

2. The Hawthorns, the Valley: these both take their names from natural features. Apparently the site of the present West Brom ground used to be covered in hawthorn bushes, hence the name.

3. Old Trafford is an area of Manchester, Anfield is an area of Liverpool. Villa Park seems to have been called after the team that play there; 'park' is sometimes used to mean football pitch, especially, I think in Scotland. Also, parks themselves tend to have names without 'the': Central Park in NYC, in London: Hyde Park, Green Park, Richmond Park, Kensington Gardens. Regent's Park is usually referred to without 'the', but its official title is The Regent's Park, being called after Prinnie, the Prince Regent, later George IV.

You really need to check these out on an individual basis (like I did, at Wikipedia). But I think what I said before stands as a general principle.

Warsaw Will March 3, 2015, 12:44am

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Thanks, Will. I've checked them out at Wikipedia. But I've a bit of problem about "the Etihad Stadium" (Manchester City). That uses "the" as "Etihad" is its sponsor. However, I saw the BBC, this stadium doesn't use "the".

CSKA Moscow's late equaliseragainst Roma in Russia earlier in the evening ensured even a defeat by Bayern at Etihad Stadium would not end City's hopes of reaching the last 16.

It should be "at the Etihad Stadium", right? Then, why does the writer not use "the" there? Any reason?

dwishiren March 3, 2015, 4:50am

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There are two Etihad Stadiums, one in Manchester and one in Australia. The latter rarely seems to get a 'the', the former sometimes. Officially the Manchester seems to take 'the', but more often than not (for example in Wikipedia) is mentioned without. Manchester City's own website appear to use both versions (compare the article with the map):

http://www.mcfc.com/the-club/visiting-the-stadium

This is not a grammatical rule about sponsors, just that sponsored stadium names appear to usually take 'the'. It's not a matter of 'should be'. And writers are free to do what they like. Here are a couple of site searches, one for the BBC, and one for the football site 'FourFourTwo'; you'll see that both versions get used. That's life!

http://www.google.pl/search?hl=en&q=Etihard...

http://www.google.pl/search?hl=en&q=Etihard...

Warsaw Will March 7, 2015, 7:04am

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Perfect. How about "iPro Stadium"?
Is this related to a sponsor or area?

By the way, what about foreign stadiums outside England ones, for example in Spain, Italia, etc? As a nonnative, I'm rather perplexed to decide whether to use or not. But a native speaker is so easy to do that. I
do want to be able to determine when to use "the" or not with foreign stadiums without going check Wikipedia. Please help me, teacher Will.

dwishiren March 10, 2015, 1:10pm

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As I've said before, I know nothing about football, and so nothing about 'iPro Stadium' without going to Wikipedia myself, so I think perhaps you should start doing a little research of your own. As for foreign stadiums, just Google them and see what results you get. But if in doubt add 'the'.

Warsaw Will March 13, 2015, 5:01am

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A small clarification … sox is plural of sock. Thus, the Boston Red Sox is indeed plural.

As for the Heat, heat is a play on words. Miami is hot but also the word 'heat' can mean 'pressure' or even 'gun'; it is noted phrases like "put the heat on" or "the heat is on".

AnWulf March 20, 2015, 2:26pm

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Yes     No