With the American President’s recent visit to Malaysia, an issue was raised about an ungrammatical sign welcoming him to the country.


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The problem is not so much about grammar but a lack of awareness that some country names have the word “The” before it.

For example:

The United States of America

The Netherlands

The Philippines

Most countries don’t, including:




So we should say:

Welcome to the President of the United States of America, or

Welcome to the Prime Minister of Malaysia.

Simple really.

The same applies to people’s names.

In Malaysia, we have many honorifics and, although it can get complicated, we should know how to use them. Many are bestowed either by the state or federal governments.

So we would say:

Welcome Datuk Saraswati and Tan Sri Lim

rather than:

Welcome Mrs Datuk Saraswati and Mr Tan Sri Lim

Some honorifics are hereditary.

We should write:

Dear Raja Azman and Tengku Ahmad

rather than

Dear En Raja Azman and En Tengku Ahmad

A good book on the subject of titles is Malaysia Protocol by Abdullah Ali.

I think I’m mostly right here but I’m happy to be corrected! 🙂