Abbreviations and articles 

Acronyms that abbreviate the names (proper nouns) of organisations and systems do not take the definite article the even if their full forms do.

Exemple correcte OPEC (the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries)

Exemple correcte UNTERM (the United Nations Multilingual Terminology Database)


But when they abbreviate common nouns, they take the or a(n) as necessary.

Exemple correcte the MD (managing director)

Exemple correcte a CMS (content management system)


Initialisms generally take the definite article if the full form does.

Exemple correcte the ERA (the European Research Area)

Exemple correcte the OECD (the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development)


This rule can be applied to the abbreviations of the names of Catalan-speaking universities because the full forms always begin with the definite article la (la Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya, la Universitat Rovira i Virgili, la Universitat de València).

Exemple correcte the UPC
Exemple correcte the URV
Exemple correcte the UV


Universities may establish other norms, however. For example, the University of Vic – Central University of Catalonia is known as UVic–UCC (without the) in its English abbreviated form. In English, many universities prefer this usage.

Exemple correcte USC is the University of Southern California.


Finally, remember that the article is not necessary when the full term is hardly ever used (HIV, for human immunodeficiency virus), when it describes a general notion (VET, for vocational education and training) or when we consider the abbreviation to be a name in its own right (IBM, for International Business Machines Corporation).

To choose between a or an, apply the rule “a before a consonant sound, an before a vowel sound” (as if the abbreviation following the article were being spoken).

Exemple correcte a LERU decision
Exemple correcte a PAS representative
Exemple correcte a UJI student
Exemple correcte an Erasmus grant
Exemple correcte an EHEA guideline
Exemple correcte an NBA player
Darrera actualització: 15-11-2017
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Recommended citation:
«Abbreviations and articles» [en línia]. A: Criteris de la Universitat de Barcelona (CUB). Style Guide. Barcelona: Universitat de Barcelona. Serveis Lingüístics. <https://www.ub.edu/cub/criteri.php?id=2368> [consulta: 7 maig 2021].