English as a Second Language/The definite article


Dear Shannon,

Please read this:

"There are about eighty pyramids known today from ancient Egypt. The three largest and best-preserved of these were built at Giza at the beginning of the Old Kingdom. The most well-known of these pyramids was built for the pharaoh Khufu. It is known as the 'Great Pyramid'."

(1) Ancient Egypt (no article - country name - proper noun)
(2) The pharoh Khufu (with article - person's name - proper noun)

Could you please explain the grammarical rule(s)?

Thaanks & best regards,
Antoine Ghannoum

#1 is as stated, but #2 isn't just a name (a proper noun) nor is it exactly a title.  Yes, it is true that we would say "built for Queen Elizabeth" or "President Obama," but here the author chooses not to say "Pharaoh Khufu", which is also possible.  In this case, "pharaoh" isn't such a common title these days, so he prefers to emphasize the fact that Khufu was one of many of the "pharaohs."

You will always find exceptions to capitalization and definite article rules in English. Ref: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:Manual_of_Style/Capital_letters

English as a Second Language

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Shannon Cole


I can answer questions related to learning the English and Spanish language.


I have taught ESL and Spanish since 1998 at the university and middle school levels. I am a native of the U.S., and have taught in both the U.S. and Mexico.

I am owner and operator of www.coleinstitute.com, an online language school.

Georgia TESOL in Action (1999)

B.A. in Spanish; M.Ed. in Language Education

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