This is a topic which you will hardly get detailed information about on the internet despite its significance. At times, people seem to take some things as though they are insignificant and tend to be ignorant of them. Meanwhile as minor as they look, they are enough to mar a whole content and render it worthless. I see a lot of blogs, articles where people misuse the position of the country name, some including the article “the” when they only feel it, and some ignoring it even when it is a compulsion to adding it. With contradictions all over, you can’t help but get confused as to which form is correct and which is not. But trust me; you will be more enlightened after this piece.
The correct use is “the UAE”, “the USA”, and “the UK”. They must have the article “the” when they are used in a sentence. As a general rule concerning the use of articles, bear in mind that, whenever the name of a country comes in a “plural form”, we have to include the definite article “the” before it.
So, with this rule, the United Arab Emirates is shortened as “the UAE”. This also applies to the United States of America, the United Kingdom, and a few others.
This also has some limitations. The limitations will be explained. Also, more light will be shed on other countries that might want to bring about confusion, make sure to follow closely until the end.
As a general rule concerning the use of articles, bear in mind that, whenever the name of a country comes in a “plural form”, we have to include the definite article “the” before it. So, with this rule, the United Arab Emirates is shortened as “the UAE”. This also applies to the United States of America, the United Kingdom, and a few others. Meanwhile, this also has some limitations. The limitations will be explained.
Also, there are a few examples of Islands that carry the article “the” even if they are shortened (by dropping the “Islands” attached with them) e.g. the Azores, the Canaries, the Galapagos. But nobody dares to shorten “the Virgin Islands” to “Virgins” because that could bring about some misunderstanding.
You might begin to wonder as to why it occurs like that above. Well, The straight forward answer to that is “the determining factor here is all about Singular and Plural” (regarding the above example). In another version, it is said that, losing the article “the” is the last process in the evolution of a country’s name. Sounds confusing right?
Don’t worry it will all get clearer, I’ll make sure to leave no stone unturned in this piece.
Taking “Spain” for a case study, the Spain of today does not have the definite article “the” associated with it. That’s true today but that was certainly not always the case. Back in the Roman Era, there existed more than one Roman province at various periods (Hispania Citerior Hispania Ulterior, Hispania Tarraconensis, Hispania Baetica, and Hispania Lusitania). What we now call the Iberian Peninsular was called Hispania. During the 15th century, Fernando de Aragon and Isabel de Castilla were referred to as “Reyes de las Espanal”, but now that it is a single entity, Nobody would use “Las Espanal” or “En la Espanal” but instead “En Espana”, the definite article “the” associated to the country’s name then has been removed from it. This also goes for Ukraine. Initially, we call it “the Ukraine” but over time, the nation declared it prefers to simply be called “Ukraine”, the same as the case of Sudan and a few others.
How to know when to include the article, the, before a country name.
Before I delve into more detailed information, let’s have a brief of the 3 Union federations the question was initially focused on (the UAE, the USA, and the UK).
- The United Arab Emirates abbreviated as the UAE is a federation of 7 states known as Emirates (Abu Dhabi, Ajman, Dubai, Fujairah, Ras Al-Khaimah, Sharjah, and Umm Al-Quwain). It has its capital in the federation as Abu Dhabi. The federal structure of the UAE includes a Supreme Council (comprising the rulers of each Emirate), a council of Ministers, and the Federal National Council. Each Emirate is governed by its Ruler, with its local government, courts, and police forces.
- The USA, which stands for the United States of America is a 50 States federation having a federal district (Washington DC as the capital city of the federation), five major territories, and various minor islands. I’m sure you wouldn’t want me to bore you by mentioning each of the states, so you can read more for the list. Each state in the federation has its constitution, grounded in republican principles, and government consisting of three branches: Executive, Legislative and Judicial. The States possess some powers and rights under the United States Constitution.
- The United Kingdom abbreviated as the UK is a federation consisting of England, Wales, Scotland as well as Northern Ireland. It is known to be the home of modern parliamentary democracy as well as the Industrial Revolution. The United Kingdom remains an economic and military power in the world with great political and cultural influence around the world. It is the founding member of Nato.
How to know when to include the article, the, before a country name.
I’m pretty sure you have a question pondering inside of you as to “How do I know precisely when to use the article “the” when referring to a nation and when not to. Well, as a general rule, it happens when one of the keywords in the country’s name requires an article. This can be in two forms,
When it represents a word that has other entities in it like Kingdom, Republic, Emirates, States, etc. Examples are; the United Arab Emirates, the United Kingdom, the People’s Republic of China, the United States of America, the Republic of Korea. These examples when used in a sentence, still retain the article “the”. For instance:
- I bought it in the United Arab Emirates
- I bought it in the Republic of Korea
Due to the plurality of the keyword
- Examples are; the Netherlands, the Philippines, the Bahamas, etc.
- These examples also retain the article “the when used in a sentence”. For instance:
- He stays in the Netherlands
- He’s from the Philippines.
- Though you have to be careful, not all countries that have an “s” ending are plural, e.g Honduras. Here it is “he is from Honduras” (it does not have the article “the” associated with it).
An exception of the general rule in usage of the article, the, before country names
However, this rule has an exception, if the country is being referred to as being a team of the country (Team USA, UAE won the competition, etc.) or when it is written to show that something was made in the country (Made in USA, made in China, etc.), in these cases, the article “the” has no function to perform.
We can say, As a guideline, things to keep in mind to know when to add the article “the” before a country name is;
- If the country name describes a political feature (this is usually a Republic). Examples are; The People’s Republic of China, the Republic of China, the Republic of Congo, the Czech Republic, the Republic of Venezuela, the Dominican Republic, etc.
- If the country name describes a political Union, Examples are; The United Arab Emirates, the United States of America, the United Kingdom. etc
- If the country name describes a physical geographic feature like a group of Islands, a river, or a mountain range. Examples are; The Netherlands, the Azores, the Virgin Islands, the Solomon Islands, etc.
The Unpredictability only surfaces when geographic or political features are unclear or forgotten. For example, Ukraine means “Borderland”, Lebanon was named after a mountain range, Sudan was named after a desert, and Gambia after a river, but none of these above mentioned use a definite article. Most of these countries’ governments personally showed their dislike for the definite article description and declared it should be removed from their country name that is why they are exceptions.
Also, note that some of the countries that have “United” and “Republic” attached to them also have cases when they can go in a sentence without the definite article “the”.
“I am going to the United States of America” can become “I am going to America”
“He’s from the Federal Republic of Nigeria” can also become “He’s from Nigeria” etc.
Finally, A few examples of countries that do not have the definite article “the” associated with them are; India, Turkey, Iran, South Africa, Saudi Arabia, Ghana, Togo, Qatar, Kuwait, etc.