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Geographical Use of the Definite Article, The

English uses the definite article, the, in front of some geographical names but not in front of others.

Geographical Use of the Definite Article (The) With Country Names

Typically, the article the is not used before the names of countries and territories:

Our flight to the China was canceled.
Our flight to China was canceled.

However, the is used before countries whose names are plural in form:

Have you ever been to Netherlands ?
Have you ever been to the Netherlands ?

The is also used with countries whose names include the words states, kingdom, or republic:

My sister lives in United States .
My sister lives in the United States .

My brother lives in United Kingdom .
My brother lives in the United Kingdom .

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Other Rules for the Geographical Use of the Definite Article, The

Do not use the before the names of

  • continents (North America, Asia, Africa)
  • mountains (Mount Rushmore, Mount Everest)
  • islands (Saint Lucia, Antigua, Grenada)
  • streets (Broad Street, Wilson Avenue)
  • cities and towns (Birmingham, Seattle, Las Vegas)
  • states (Alabama, Washington, Nevada)
  • lakes (Lake Erie, Lake Kissimmee, Lake Rabun)

Do use the before the names of

  • points on the globe (the Equator, the North Pole)
  • mountain ranges (the Smoky Mountains, the Andes)
  • island chains (the Florida Keys, the Pacific Islands)
  • geographical areas (the East, the Midwest)
  • rivers, seas, and oceans (the Mississippi River, the Atlantic Ocean, the Nile River)
  • deserts and peninsulas (the Mojave Desert, the Balkan Peninsula
  • groups of lakes (the Great Lakes)

Language is always changing. Fifty years ago, Argentina was known as “the Argentine,” and the Falkland Islands always had the definite article in front of it. But Argentina is now perfectly standard and you may even hear people say “I come from Falkland Islands.”

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