Earth or the Earth

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Earth or the Earth

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1ironjaw
jul 25, 2010, 4:32pm

Hi I am not to sure if this is the right place to ask, but as English is my second language, what is the right way to use Earth as in the following sentence:

it happened around the Earth or

it happened around Earth

When do you use 'the' and when not?

2timspalding
jul 25, 2010, 4:49pm

That's a wonderful question, and a rather tough one.

It's rare that one or the other would be entirely wrong, but there's a flavor to the use of one or another in a given context, tied, basically to the ambiguity of earth as thing and as planetary name.

Generally, leaving off the "the" has a slightly more scientific or futuristic flavor to it. It implies you're thinking about the topic impartially, and your words aren't tied to the fact that you are—or are not—on the Earth. So, an alien would never say "The Earth is the third planet from the sun. I wonder what it's like." They'd say "Earth is..."

That's the best I can do. Help?

3keristars
Redigeret: jul 25, 2010, 5:11pm

I would say that "Earth" is the proper name, but "the earth" is the noun and an alternative for "the planet" (but only when talking about Earth). Of course, the word is also a synonym for dirt or mud or the like...

I don't think I would capitalise "Earth" when used with "the", though now I'm wondering if that is the right grammar, or if it's an instinctive thing because of how I perceive the word, but also can't properly explain.

In fact, thinking on it further, if the topic were outer space and planets or the like, I would only use "Earth" - it's looking at the planet from outside, and it lines up with "Saturn", "Mercury", etc - I wouldn't use "the" for those names in that context, either. But if Earth is the only planet under consideration, and not being discussed in context of space and other extraterrestrial bodies, I would use "the earth" - I think.

(PS: "earth" has just lost all meaning for me. earth earth earth earth. What a strange little word it is.)

4bernsad
Redigeret: jul 25, 2010, 6:15pm

(PS: "earth" has just lost all meaning for me. earth earth earth earth. What a strange little word it is.) Don't you hate it when that happens? LOL

If the Earth is just "Earth" when considered from the outside, i.e. Mercury Venus, Earth..., why is the Moon always referred to as "the Moon" and not just "Moon"?

Also, why is the moon just called Moon? The moons of other planets are mostly all named, (Io, Europa, Ganymede, etc...); I wonder why such a prominent and important astronomical object is effectively named Biro?

P.S. and the more I write moon, the stranger it looks!

5keristars
jul 25, 2010, 6:32pm

Well, my first thought is that "the moon" doesn't have a name. It's the only one there is (at least, for those of us on Earth, it's the only one we see easily), so it just is. I think that's another difference between "the earth" and "Earth", and it's also why there's "the sun" but not "Sun" (however, there is the name "Sol" for it). We have several words for "earth" in English, thanks to other languages (earth, terra, planet, maybe more?), and I think if it weren't for phrases like "Our planet Earth", 'earth' would be used the same as 'moon' and 'sun'.

When I was taking astronomy classes and we were talking about moons and needed to specify our moon, it was often called "Earth's moon", rather than "the moon", which is more analogous to "the moons" of another planet, maybe even "the second moon" if we had assigned an arbitrary order to a specific set. When talking about stars, if we used the word "sun" for any of them, then our sun would shift to "Sol", but because there is the other word for the same thing ("star"), "the sun" would usually suffice. In fact, I think that if the moon were to be given a name, it would be Lune or Luna or whatever the Latin is.

You've got me wondering about this, and now I'm wanting to read more about the usage of these words. I wonder if anyone has done research into it.

6timspalding
jul 25, 2010, 6:57pm

Some sentences for thought:

X means either earth, Earth, the earth or the Earth.

I was farming X all day long.
After invading from Mars, the inhabitants of Venus farmed X for 2 million years.
The Apollo rocket left X's atmosphere on the way to space.
The atmosphere of X is 80% unobtanium.
At the beginning of Genesis, the Bible describes the spirit of God moving over waters of X.
The order of the planets is Venus, Mercury, X, Mars.
After Venus and Mercury, X is the third planet.

7rybie2
jul 25, 2010, 7:12pm

6: Oops on the planet order there, tim!

8BobH1
jul 25, 2010, 7:36pm

#5: Surely keristars, the Moon does have a name - it's "Moon"

Aren't "Earth", "Sun" and "Moon" proper nouns, the names of these bodies, and as such shouldn't they always start with a capital letter?

9PaulFoley
jul 25, 2010, 8:08pm

So, an alien would never say "The Earth is the third planet from the sun. I wonder what it's like." They'd say "Earth is..."

They'd say it in alien.

10timspalding
jul 25, 2010, 9:18pm

>7 rybie2:

I deny it.

11pokarekareana
jul 26, 2010, 6:02am

Ironjaw, could you give us a bit more information about what you're writing about?

If you're trying to say that something happened all over the world, then I think I would avoid using the word "Earth", as it doesn't sound quite right.

If you wanted to say something was happening in the vicinity of the blue & green planet, I think I would say "the Earth", unless you're writing something which talks about the other planets, like a sci-fi or scientific/astronomical piece, in which case I would say "Earth".

12TineOliver
jul 27, 2010, 12:14am

>1 ironjaw:

I don't think that either usage would be incorrect. ' The' is what’s called a definite article, it tells you that you're talking about something specific e.g.:
- 'An' apple (indefinite article): you could be talking about any apple
- ‘The’ apple (definite article): you are talking about one specific apple.

In the case of proper nouns, in many cases, the use of a definite article is unnecessary because the fact that you are talking about a specific item is already clear. For example, you don’t need to say ‘the Jupiter’, because you could only possibly be talking about one thing; there aren’t other Jupiters from which you need to differentiate. That’s not to say that you can’t use a definite article where it sounds natural to do so, it’s just unnecessary.

Personally, I would only use ‘the’ if I was talking about earth meaning soil/land/etc. Eg. ‘The earth in my paddock is highly acidic’, where there is other earth from which to differentiate.

> 4

“Also, why is the moon just called Moon? The moons of other planets are mostly all named, (Io, Europa, Ganymede, etc...); “

We need a definite article in front of ‘moon’ because moon also has a usage as a synonym for natural satellites (e.g. I’m interested in the moons of Jupiter). ‘The’ is there to show we are talking about a specific moon (in this case, Earth’s)

13ironjaw
Redigeret: jul 27, 2010, 12:08pm

Thank you so much for all your comments. I am writing on space law. Please check the wording in the Outer Space Treaty:

http://www.oosa.unvienna.org/oosa/en/SpaceLaw/gares/html/gares_21_2222.html

Examples are:

Recalling resolution 1884 (XVIII), calling upon States to refrain from placing in orbit around the earth any objects carrying nuclear weapons or any other kinds of weapons of mass destruction or from installing such weapons on celestial bodies,

Article IV
States Parties to the Treaty undertake not to place in orbit around the earth any objects carrying nuclear weapons

In the treaty they are using "the" earth but in the journals there is different usage of with or without the earth.

My specific example:
Most of these objects are no longer functional nor in orbit around Earth and have since accumulated.

Should it be with "the"?

14rybie2
Redigeret: jul 27, 2010, 11:23am

13: "Earth" is the name of our planet; "the earth" means the soil (of Earth), but in conversation may also mean "the planet" (the planet Earth, of course :-)

I'd suggest you talk with NASA, so you have a source for your work, but all NASA documents and communications (such as http://oiir.hq.nasa.gov/globablreach2008.pdf) always refer to our planet as "Earth".

It may also help you to talk with NASA about the term "outer space" as there are many levels of orbit and "space", and I'm guessing you need to be precise in your choice of terminology?

Edited for clarity.

15timspalding
jul 27, 2010, 11:23am

>14 rybie2:

all NASA documents and communications always refer to our planet as "Earth".

If you mean "Earth" not "the Earth"—the original question at issue—they don't. See http://www.google.com/search?q=%22the+earth%22&btnGNS=Search+nasa.gov&oi...

16jjwilson61
jul 27, 2010, 4:04pm

13> The example the uses just Earth without the the in front sounds wrong to my ears. I'm not sure I could say why though.

17pokarekareana
jul 27, 2010, 4:46pm

"My specific example:
Most of these objects are no longer functional nor in orbit around Earth and have since accumulated."

I would change this to "the Earth", just because it sounds better to my ear, but it would be perfectly acceptable English usage to leave it as it is.