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    #1

    Article THE before country names

    Hi,
    I was puzzled today by finding out that we use article 'the' in front of such country names as Sudan and Gambia. I've heard of the Netherlands, the USA, the UAE or the Czech Republic but the Sudan?
    Can anyone enlighten me on the subject?
    Speaking of 'the', does anyone know why we say the Hague? I asked a Dutch friend and received a puzzled look back, so...
    Thanks.

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    #2

    Re: Article THE before country names

    Quote Originally Posted by budrys View Post
    Hi,
    I was puzzled today by finding out that we use article 'the' in front of such country names as Sudan and Gambia. I've heard of the Netherlands, the USA, the UAE or the Czech Republic but the Sudan?
    Can anyone enlighten me on the subject?
    Speaking of 'the', does anyone know why we say the Hague? I asked a Dutch friend and received a puzzled look back, so...
    Thanks.
    ***** NOT A TEACHER *****

    Good morning, Budrys.

    (1) I do not think there is a "rule."

    (2) It's just what native speakers decide.

    (3) When I was younger, we always referred to THE Sudan. Today almost all Americans say only Sudan.

    (4) When I was younger, we always referred to THE Ukraine. But not nowadays.

    (5) I have noticed that other languages are also dropping "the" sometimes.

    (a) Until 20 (???) years ago, Spanish-speaking people always referred to THE United States. I notice that most Spanish-language publications no longer use "los" (THE).

    P. S. I forget to mention that we used to refer to THE Lebanon. It would sound very strange today if an American used the article.

    Have a nice day!

  1. emsr2d2's Avatar
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    #3

    Re: Article THE before country names

    Quote Originally Posted by budrys View Post
    Hi,
    I was puzzled today by finding out that we use article 'the' in front of such country names as Sudan and Gambia. I've heard of the Netherlands, the USA, the UAE or the Czech Republic but the Sudan?
    Can anyone enlighten me on the subject?
    Speaking of 'the', does anyone know why we say the Hague? I asked a Dutch friend and received a puzzled look back, so...
    Thanks.
    I used to work at an airport and of course I got to hear just about every country name. I must admit it's a mystery to me why some of them take "the" in English and some don't. When the country actually contains something like "Republic" or "Kingdom" it makes sense (the Democratic Republic of Congo, the United Kingdom) but admittedly with some others it doesn't.

    The Gambia is one of the more confusing ones. I've never heard Sudan called "the Sudan" but clearly you have.

    As far as "The Hague" is concerned, it's a direct translation. It's actually called "Den Haag" so has "The" in the official name.

    Edit: I just saw The Parser's reply - in the UK, at the airport at least, we still refer to it as "the Ukraine" and I think I would probably still say "the Lebanon" too.
    Last edited by emsr2d2; 16-May-2010 at 18:34. Reason: Extra info

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    #4

    Re: Article THE before country names

    Thanks TheParser and emsr2d2 for your informative replies.
    There is an interesting old thread on this subject here:
    https://www.usingenglish.com/forum/a...1-country.html

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    #5

    Re: Article THE before country names

    Quote Originally Posted by TheParser View Post

    (1) I do not think there is a "rule."

    I used to think there was, at least, an attempting rule, namely the one which says:
    If there is a common noun in the country name (explicit or implicit), then use the definite article 'the', otherwise do not use it.
    If this is a good rule, it should have at least one exception (just kidding!)

    I extracted this idea from the following two posts from the old thread I mentioned above:
    Quote Originally Posted by engee30 View Post
    I reckon there's a simpler rule that one should follow:
    use the article the with countries that have a common noun within its name:
    the UK = the United Kingdom
    the USA = the United States of America


    use the article the with countries whose name is in the plural:
    the Netherlands
    the Philippines
    Quote Originally Posted by orangutan View Post
    I think the main point is that the country names that require "the" are made up of common nouns and adjectives, rather than being proper nouns in their own right. This is true also of "the Nether Lands". I'm not sure about the Philippines, but I think it may be short for the Philippine Islands.

  2. emsr2d2's Avatar
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    #6

    Re: Article THE before country names

    You may be onto something there, with the idea about the plurals. The Netherlands, the United States, etc, as you said. You can add:

    The Bahamas (which is apparently called "La Mancomunidad de las Bahamas")
    The Seychelles (the Seychelle islands)
    The Maldives (the Maldive islands)

    Still doesn't explain the Gambia but like you said, there has to be an exception!

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    #7

    Re: Article THE before country names

    Quote Originally Posted by TheParser View Post

    (2) It's just what native speakers decide.
    Sure. In fact I would say it is what English speakers decide, not just the native ones. Because nowadays we see there is an enormous influence in English by non native speakers, what they call "International English".

    Quote Originally Posted by TheParser View Post

    (5) I have noticed that other languages are also dropping "the" sometimes.
    It is a serious problem to teach this topic to Brazilian students, because they compare to Portuguese.
    In Portuguese we always use the definite article before countries. I can't remember an exception right now.
    So, there is a tendency for Brazilian English students to always use the article before countries.


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    #8

    Re: Article THE before country names

    Thank you all.

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    #9

    Re: Article THE before country names

    Quote Originally Posted by budrys View Post
    Hi,
    I was puzzled today by finding out that we use article 'the' in front of such country names as Sudan and Gambia.
    Gambia or The Gambia both names are possible. Look here: Gambia - definition of Gambia by the Free Online Dictionary, Thesaurus and Encyclopedia.

    Sudan: Sudan - definition of Sudan by the Free Online Dictionary, Thesaurus and Encyclopedia.
    Both countries are republics.

    I´ve found the rule mentioned by ymnisky and emsr2d2 above: plural countries, or where the name contains a noun require the definite article. (M. Vince; First Certificate Language Practice)
    Last edited by mara_ce; 16-May-2010 at 22:13.

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    #10

    Re: Article THE before country names

    Some are historical- like the Ukraine, which was called that before independence, and slowly I think the article is starting to go, but it takes time to adjust. If,say, the Algarve became an independent country, it would carry the article for a while.

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