Grammar: The Definite Article (‘The’) with Names of Places

English Level: Upper-Intermediate, Advanced

Language Focus: A review of when to use the definite article with the names of places

Worksheet Download: definite-article-geography-worksheet.docx (scroll down to study the exercises online)

Jump to: Exercises


A proper noun is the unique name of a person, place, or thing that starts with a capital letter, for example, ‘John’, ‘Sweden’, ‘Google’. Before proper nouns, we generally do not use an article. For example,

  • Matthew is a man.
  • He lives in Canada.
  • He worked for IBM.

However, sometimes you can find the definite article ‘the‘ before proper nouns.

  • Carver lives in the United States.
  • He lives near the Pacific Ocean.

Why? Well, it’s hard to give a reason. However, there are some rules we can follow. Please read below and do the exercises to practice.

boats on the Pacific Ocean

Boats on the Pacific Ocean

Rule #1: Use the Definite Article ‘The’ with Countries that are States, Unions, Republics, etc.


We use ‘the’ before countries that contain a word like ‘Union’, ‘Emirates’, ‘Kingdom.’ These words mean that the country is a group of smaller states.

  • the United States
  • the Republic of Ireland
  • the Czech Republic
  • the United Arab Emirates

We also use ‘the’ before countries that end in a plural ‘s’.

  • the Philippines (= the full name is The Republic of the Philippines)
  • the Bahamas (= the full name is The Republic of the Bahamas)
  • the Netherlands

 

Rule #2: Use the Definite Article ‘The’ with Names of Rivers, Seas, Oceans, etc.


We say the following:

  • the Nile / the Nile River
  • the Caspian Sea
  • the Pacific / the Pacific Ocean
  • the Mediterranean / the Mediterranean Sea
  • the Panama Canal

Rule #3: Use the Definite Article ‘The’ with Deserts


  • the Sahara / the Sahara Desert

 

Rule #4: Do Not Use ‘the’ with Lakes or Mounts


  • I live by Lake Ontario.
  • I swam in Lake Superior.
  • He can see Mount Fuji.
  • She can see Mount Rushmore.

 

Rule #5 – Use the Definite Article ‘The’ with Mountain Ranges


Just like how we add ‘the’ to countries that end with a plural ‘s’ (the Philippines), we add ‘the’ before mountain ranges (which also end in a plural noun).

  • the Rockies / the Rocky Mountains
  • the Himalayas / the Himalayan Mountains 

 

Rule #6 – Use the Definite Article ‘The’ with Building Names


We usually use ‘the’ before the names of buildings.

  • the Emperor’s Palace
  • the Tower of Pisa
  • the Louvre
  • the Pentagon
  • The Marriott / The Marriott Hotel

This is not true, however, in some cases:

  • The names of stations: Grand Central Station, Main Station
  • The names of airports: Pearson Airport, Gatwick Airport
  • The names of universities (without ‘of’): Columbia University, Santa Monica College

General Rule: Use the Definite Article ‘The’ with Names that Have the Preposition ‘Of’


  • the Island of Lesbos
  • the University of Toronto
  • the Republic of Congo
  • the Gulf of Mexico

 

To summarize, use ‘the’ before the following:

  • proper nouns that contain a word that means they are a group (unions, republics, etc.)
  • deserts (the Mojave)
  • rivers, seas, oceans, etc. (but not lakes!)
  • mountain ranges (the Rockies)
  • building names (the Pentagon)
  • proper nouns that include ‘of’ (the University of Michigan)

Do not use ‘the’ for everything else, which includes

  • lake names (Lake Superior)
  • mounts (Mount Everest)
  • street names (Main Street)
  • airports (JFK Airport)
  • stations (Broadway Station)

After reviewing the above rules, try the practice exercises below.

Exercises: Using Articles with Names of Places

Instructions: Add the definite article ‘the’ if necessary.

  1.  Prague is the capital of  Czech Republic.
  2. When I was in  England, I visited  Tower of London.
  3.  Rhine is a river that goes through  Netherlands.
  4. On my trip in  Asia, I had a chance to visit  Mount Aso and  Yangtze River in  China.

  

 

  1. I left  Hong Kong via  Hong Kong International Airport.
  2.  Mohave Desert is located in  United States.
  3.  Appalachian Mountains are in  North America.
  4. When I was in  New York, I visited  Empire State Building and  Seneca Lake.
  5.  Sea of Japan is located between  Japan and  South Korea. It is part of  Pacific Ocean.

  

  1.  MET Museum is located on  Fifth Avenue.
  2. I met a man from  New Zealand when I was skiing in  Swiss Alps.
  3. On my trip around the world, I visited  Jamaica,  Bahamas,  Australia, and  Republic of Congo.
  4. John lives on  Fraser Street in  Sydney.
  5.  Poland is part of  European Union.
  6. The tourist arrived at  Manaus Airport and then took a tour of  Amazon River.

  

 

I hope these general rules about article use will be helpful. If you find a mistake or have any questions, please leave a comment below.

Best of luck in your English studies.

– Created by Matthew Barton (copyright) of Englishcurrent.com

Related Lessons:

Was this helpful? Donate to our web hosting bill to show your support!

3 comments on “Grammar: The Definite Article (‘The’) with Names of Places

  1. Lenka (Posted on 2-25-2017 at 14:59) Reply

    Hello, is Honk Kong IA written with the definite article?

    1. Lenka (Posted on 2-25-2017 at 15:01) Reply

      Hong :D

      1. mb Post author (Posted on 2-26-2017 at 19:42) Reply

        Hello Lenka. No, it doesn’t need an article.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.