For those who travel for the pleasure of the journey, those who believe that getting there is as much fun as being there, Russia's Trans-Siberian Railway has long been an almost mythic experience. It is the longest continuous rail line on earth, each run clattering along in an epic journey of almost six thousand miles (or about ten thousand kilometers) over one third of the globe. For most of its history, the Trans-Siberian journey has been an experience of almost continuous movement, seven days or more of unabated train travel through the vast expanse of Russia.

In the above, you will read the words 'it is the longest continuous rail line on earth, each run clattering along in an epic journey.

I just want to know the reason for the dropping of article 'the' when writing 'rail on earh'. You could write 'rail on the earth' too.

What do you think?
Hello Andrei

'On earth' seems to be the established idiom in most everyday contexts, e.g.

'Life on earth.'
'What on earth - ?'
'The greatest show on earth.'

You might say 'the earth' if you wanted to seem more objective or detached, e.g.

'The earth is the third planet from the sun, and has one moon.'
'Eratosthenes calculated the circumference of the earth.'
'Some people still believe the earth is flat.'

I think this is a case of a noncount noun "earth", not the proper (count) noun "earth" or "Earth". The addition of "the" turns "earth" into the count noun "earth" or "Earth". Compare, "the longest on the earth" / "the longest on the planet", not "the longest on planet".

As such, it refers to the ground beneath our feet, more specifically to "the longest ... on any earth" (or "on all earth". But with a noncount noun "any" or "all" is typically understood and omitted.


"He is the best skater on ice today"
"Will butter float on water?"
"It's the fastest car on asphalt."

The last one is a bit fanciful, but there aren't a lot of examples to choose from! Or maybe my imagination is not up to the task just now!

Emotion: smile
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The article is dropped because in this instance, "earth" is meant as a place name. To an English speaker, "the tallest building in THE San Diego" would be incorrect, as would "I gave the book to THE Andrei."

I was taught to capitalize "Earth" when used as a place name (third planet from the sun) and not when used as a common noun ("he filled the flowerpot with earth from his garden"). But one always runs the danger of appearing pompous when using capitalization, and as an English user, rather than an English expert, I would guess this is why the author chose to use the lowercase "e" in writing this passage. Either that, or he's more sensitive to the use of articles than to the use of capitalization.

Thanks Hovawart.

Of course you wouldn't use any article with a proper name. I have seen the words 'the earth'. Could you tell me an instance where you could say the words 'the earth' ?
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