View Full Version : Why are some countries 'The'

uffington sb
25th Apr 2003, 03:06
Can anyone tell me why some countries are known as 'The' i.e. the Sudan, the Gambia, the Ukraine, the Netherlands etc. With most of these, apart from the Netherlands, you can drop the 'The' , I've never heard anyone say 'I've just come back from Netherlands' it's always changed to Holland. So why is this, does anyone know???

25th Apr 2003, 03:17
No idea, but if it involves the phrase "The very democratic people's republic of...." then it's probably a safe bet that it's anything but ( they protest too much and all that)...

25th Apr 2003, 03:27
What about Wales? It's only one country, and it's called Wales. Shouldn't it be Wale? :confused:

25th Apr 2003, 04:00
Well, some are plural so it just sounds better - The United Kingdom, The Netherlands. Gambia and Ukraine are often referred to without the 'The' prefix. I still don't know the answer to your question though.

uffington sb
25th Apr 2003, 04:23
I've always though 'The British Virgin Islands' sounded a very nice place to visit.

25th Apr 2003, 04:27
It's nowhere near the Isle of Man though, is it?

pax anglia
25th Apr 2003, 04:32
I understand that use of the the definite article in the name of a country results from said country being named after a geographic feature eg; The Congo Basin. Over time "Basin" fell from usage and the country became The Congo. Just a bit of linguistic shorthand or sloppiness, really. Admittedly I can't recall what geographic features were dropped from the countries named above, but I'm pretty sure that this explanation will hold water. (Well, a basin should, shouldn't it?)
ORAC, The Hon Draper.....anyone?

25th Apr 2003, 05:22
The definite article is used when the original name was in the form of a the definte article + an adjective + a noun.


The Philippines = the (Philippine) Islands
The Bahamas = the (Bahama) Islands
The (British) Isles
The (United) Kingdom
The (United) States
The (Soviet) Union
The Antarctic = The Antarctic (Region)
The Argentine = The Argentine (Republic)
The Hague = The Hague´s Gravenhage
The Punjab = The Punjab (State)
The Sinai = The Sinai (Peninsula)

When the (adjective) is removed, a simple noun remains. The islands, the isles, the kingdom, the states, the union etc. Country names without an article stand only for those countries. America, Australia, Austria, England, Great Britain, Russia etc.

Ukraine is a special case. The USSR had (has) a historical hostility to the very idea of a separate Ukranian nationality. Moscow's goal was to deliberately eliminate Ukraine and Ukrainians as political and cultural entities. Soviet translators, who knew the patterns for country names in English, deliberately translated the name of this area with the article "the" because it then sounds to English-speakers like a part of a country rather than the name of an individual, independent country. Ukranians who understood why Soviets were using the article "the" complained. In Russian the word 'Ukraina' has no article.

Since the Soviet Union broke apart, Ukrainians have been pushing very hard to have the article "the" removed from the English translation, so as to be linguistically correct, ie. to show that Ukraine is a separate, independent country, not part of another country.

The Sudan & the Yemen are so called because the Arabic names for Sudan and Yemen contain the definite article. But in such cases the definite article is used in lower case. The same case applies to other languages where the definted article is used in the native tongue such as in the the Netherlands.

For many African colonies it is because French added the article, such as in le Liban, le Congo and le Sudan, and this has carried over into English usage

In such cases, the article should be dropped where the name is used outside of a sentence such as on a map ot in addresses etc, it is written as "Netherlands" not "the Netherlands" -- "Gambia" not "the Gambia."

pax anglia
26th Apr 2003, 02:24
Beautifully put ORAC!
Being the generous chap you are, I'm sure you'll give me a mark for a near miss!

26th Apr 2003, 02:28
..........and why in the Eurovision Song Contest is it "Le France" when everyone else is "Great Britain, Spain etc" not "The Great Britain, Le Spain etc"

26th Apr 2003, 02:41
Well then, why 'The Arsenal' but 'United' ?

What about "Come on the In-ger-lund" ?



"The United Kingdom"

26th Apr 2003, 03:20
In the case of Arsenal it is because the name of the club was previously "the Woolwich Arsenal". They moved from Woolwich to Highbury in 1913 and changed their name, but the definite article stuck.

26th Apr 2003, 03:35
The Villa?

The Blues?

Tricky Woo
26th Apr 2003, 04:21
The Gambia River.

Er, that's my contribution.

Why is Mr Pope called The Pope? Also, Granny Queen is The Queen.


Boss Raptor
26th Apr 2003, 14:21
I think it is 'The' United Kingdom of Great Britain, Northern Ireland etc. - at least it was in my passport until we got these awful red EU ones...

28th Apr 2003, 05:22
Mmm, funny how everyone in New Zealand refers to "the" North Island or "the" South Island (or "the Mainland"), but everyone outside NZ drops the definite article....

28th Apr 2003, 05:35
I think it is 'The' United Kingdom of Great Britain, Northern Ireland etc. - at least it was in my passport until we got these awful red EU ones...
It still is on the "awful red" EU ones too. Take a look blindo.

Big Tudor
28th Apr 2003, 16:56

The Villa because on a hill just behind Villa Park is a house called 'Aston Villa'. Why? Cos it is a villa style house and it is located in the area of the West Midlands called Aston. The footballers just nicked the nearest house name. Wonder if there is a football team called 'Shangri La' or 'Dunroamin' anywhere.

29th Apr 2003, 02:52
Wonder if there is a football team called 'Shangri La' or 'Dunroamin' anywhere.

Apparently Dunroamin Athletic have an atrocious away record. Still not quite as bad as the mackems though...