use of "The"


Why do we say "The United States of America" and not "The India"? 

asked Jun 12 '13 at 16:53 Scarlet Darwin Contributor

4 answers


Here is the rule: if the country's name is plural (United States, United Emirates, Soviet Republics), then we use "the" before this country's name. When singular (Canada, India), no "the" (definite article) is used. There is one exception with The Ukraine, but most people do not observe it now-a-days.

link answered Jun 12 '13 at 19:06 Elin Tomov Contributor

Interesting "rule". But how about (to name but a few) the Sudan, the Congo, the Gambia? The Czech Republic? Or the United Kingdom?

Michael CranfieldJun 15 '13 at 18:07

"There is one exception with The Ukraine".Yeah, It is, but only for illiterate or russian shovinist. Official name of country in Declartion of Independence in English version is "Ukraine". "the Ukraine" is the rudiment of the Soviets and its occupation period in Ukraine.Quite the same case with the Sudan, the Congo, the Gambia, who also had colonial status. Here is materials for the topic: <a href="" rel="nofollow"></a>

PomeronAug 12 '16 at 07:11

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I should perhaps add that the use of "The" before a country with a unique name  seems to be on the decline in English.  Long ago, we stopped referring to Argentina as "The Argentine" and,     despite their  official names being prefixed by "The",  increasing reference is made to "Gambia" and "Sudan".   As I said at the start,  it is largely down to usage, and use of "The"  is going out of fashion.

But I must say that,  possibly because I lived there,  "Congo" alone sounds ugly to me.   That sad  country really does have an identity crisis: first,  we knew it as "the Belgian Congo" (which distinguished it from its smaller neighbour, "French Congo").     They were also known informally by reference to their capitals, "Congo-Leo" (as in Leopoldville) and "Congo-Brazza", which became even more useful after independence.   Then the former Belgian Congo became "The Zaire" or "Zaire"  before changing again,  to "Congo".  (No wonder the country is in a mess!)  


But just another example of  "The" going out of fashion, at least in English:   some other countries maintain the definite article in their own language - "La France",  for example.  And I am sure we can rely on the British and Americans to keep their "The".  I hope so, because otherwise  the names would sound wrong,  wouldn't they.

link comment answered Jun 16 '13 at 10:33 Michael Cranfield Expert

Scarlet,  I think you may have been misled here.  There is no "hard and fast" rule.  And grammar has nothing to do with it.   The notion that "the" is a useful adjective in this context is plainly ridiculous.  The closest that there is to a general rule is that if the official name of the country embodies a unique name, like France,  India, or Argentina it is abbreviated to that name in common usage .    Otherwise it is known as "The United......",  The Republic.." etc.      But there are so many exceptions - island nations like The Seychelles, Maldives, Phillipines, for example.    And then there's The Gambia, The Congo,  The Sudan which are increasingly referred to without "the".


I lived and worked in many of these countries but perhaps Uruguay has the strangest official name of all: "La Republica Oriental del Uruguay" which simply  means that it is the republic east of the river Uruguay!

And to equate grammar with sounding right is, sadly, just wishful thinking: for example,  I have been involved only today in a discussion about the increasing number of people around the world who believe that "haitch" sounds better than aitch, despite the fact that it is not even in the dictionary!

link comment answered Jun 15 '13 at 20:38 Michael Cranfield Expert

Usage, which is usually based on what sounds "right".     Note that the official titles of the countries you mention are different (no The before US  and Republic of India).      There are many countries where there is no clear choice (The) Seychelles, for example.

link answered Jun 12 '13 at 17:11 Michael Cranfield Expert

thank you

Scarlet DarwinJun 12 '13 at 17:15

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