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#1 Parent Sophie
Re: British English: Business English Grammar: Should You Put "The" Before the Name of A Country?

Excellent!!!
Thank you so much!

Teacher Lee
British English: Business English Grammar: Should You Put "The" Before the Name of A Country?

Articles (a, an, the) cause terrible problems for non-native English speakers, even at an intermediate – high level

One particular area where students struggle is when dealing with names of places (especially streets and cities). They also tend to get confused about whether to put the definite article “the“ before a country’s name. For example:

* This cuisine is from the Mongolia

* I would like to visit the France

* The Norway is a rich country

These all stand out as blatantly obvious mistakes to native speakers. Luckily, there’s a simple technique that helps us avoid making such errors.

By asking the question, “Is the name of the country singular or plural?” we can get a very good idea of whether or not we need to put “the” before the country.

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PLURAL

If the country’s name is plural, we need to use the. For example, the Philippine Islands are seven thousand islands that are grouped together into one entity (the nation state of the Philippines).

Whenever we have one country like the Philippines that is made of many different parts (plural), it’s appropriate to use “the“.

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SINGULAR

This one is the easiest. If you think a country’s name is singular because it doesn’t sound like it’s made up of separate parts (like 7,000 different islands) we don’t need to put “the”.

MORE THAN 90% OF COUNTRY NAMES ARE SINGULAR, WHICH MEANS A LOT OF THE TIME YOU WON’T HAVE TO BOTHER USING AN ARTICLE (THE).

* This cuisine is from Mongolia

* I would like to visit France

* Norway is a rich country

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However, even though most country names are singular (so don’t need an article), there are some big (very big) exceptions

Amazingly, the 3 big examples below make up just 1% of the number of countries in the world (although the EU isn’t technically a country), but account for 49% of global GDP!

Taking into account how much these 3 entities contribute to the world economy, it’s really important that you practice using articles with them.

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1 – THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA

The U.S.A (more commonly the U.S., for short) emerged as the superpower of the 20th century, and could continue it’s pre-eminence in the 21st century (or maybe this will be China’s century?)

The U.S. is by far the largest economy in the world and dominates pretty much every area connected to Finance Business English (even though I’m British, I find myself thinking in US$ and slipping into American English because it’s so ubiquitous)

Since the one entity of the United States is made up of 50 different states, we need to consider it as a plural name. It’s like 1 cake (America) which is made up of 50 different slices (the 50 individual states which are “united”).

When we refer to the US as “America”, we don’t need to put THE before “America” since this is considered to be one entity.

* Apple is the largest tech company in America

* America has a very vibrant entrepreneurial ecosystem.

* Apple is the largest tech company in the United States

* The United States has a very vibrant entrepreneurial ecosystem.

Both America (singular) and the U.S (plural) are commonly used, and they both have the same meaning.

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2- THE UNITED KINGDOM

The US was the superpower of the 20th century, but the UK was the superpower of the 19th century.

Despite declining in relative strength and importance since then, the incredible capital, wealth and regard for property rights built up during this period allows the UK to still be a huge economic force in the world today.

The United Kingdom is actually one group of four united countries (England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland), just as the United States is a group of 50 united states.

When we refer to the UK as “Britain”, as we often refer to the US as “America”, we don’t need to put THE, since Britain is considered to be one entity.

- Shell is the largest company in Britain

- Britain has a very vibrant entrepreneurial ecosystem.

- Shell is the largest tech company in the United Kingdom

- The United Kingdom has a very vibrant entrepreneurial ecosystem.

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3 - THE EUROPEAN UNION

As with America, “Europe” has many different member states that make up it’s one overall entity. In fact some people have even referred to the EU as “the United States of Europe”. America is made up of 50 states. Europe is made up of 28 states.

The difference between the EU and the US is that the EU is not classified as “a country” like the US, it’s classified as a regional bloc where each member state still gets to be its own country (like in the case of the United Kingdom with England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland)

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A HISTORIC EXAMPLE: THE SOVIET UNION

The Union of Soviet Socialist Republics.

Although this country doesn’t exist anymore, it’s an incredible economic case study.

As with “the European Union”, “Union” in “the Soviet Union” is plural so we need to use “the“.

The “Union” was between Russia and its neighboring countries, such as Ukraine and Kazakhstan. By landmass it was actually the biggest empire in the history of the world.

OTHER EXAMPLES OF “PLURAL” COUNTRIES WHERE WE NEED TO USE “THE”

Tip: Notice the “s” on the end of the country. This is a big clue that the names meaning is “plural”.

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Island (can be plural) = Islands

- The Philippine Islands (people just call it the Philippines for short)

- The Cayman Islands

- The Maldive Islands – (Commonly referred to as the Maldives)

- The Seychelle Islands

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Emirate (an Arabic word, it can be plural = Emirates)

- The United Arab Emirates (there are 7 of these “Emirates” that have been united into 1 country. Dubai and Abu Dhabi are the 2 most famous of these 7 Emirates)

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Republic (can be plural) = Republics

- The Republic of Ireland

- The Czech Republic

- The Dominican Republic

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LANDS

- The “Nether Lands” (The Netherlands)

The meaning of the Dutch word “Netherlands” is literally “the low lands”. Lands is plural, so it makes sense for us to use “the”

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The key ones to get comfortable with are the big 3:

- The United States (The US)

- The European Union (The EU)

- The United Kingdom (The UK)

Or you could use no articles and simply call them:

- America

- Europe

- Britain

Remember, it doesn’t matter which option you choose. They both have the same meaning, it’s just that one is emphasizing the whole entity (singular) and the other is emphasizing the many different parts (or states) that make up the entity (plural)

For the other countries, you’re probably not going to need an article, as more than 90% of countries are singular.

Try your best to apply the singular / plural technique above, but if you can’t figure it out the odds are in your favor to assume that the country is “singular”.

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Lee Banfield is the founder of Finance Business English. If you’re interested in learning more or studying Business English with Lee please add him on

Skype: Skype ID = financebusinessenglish

For more tips and advice, I recommend checking out my website where I write a couple of times a week and answer questions from students.

www.financebusinessenglish.com

Return to Index › British English: Business English Grammar: Should You Put "The" Before the Name of A Country?






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