Geographical use of 'the' | Bangkok Post: learning

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Geographical use of 'the'

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In a previous WRITEStuff! article, we learned about the, a and an, the three articles in English. The article has since generated questions on when and how the is used when it comes to specific geographic locations. Let's look at some rules for using the with geographical nouns. 

Here are situations where you would not use the:

Before the names of most countries/territories: Thailand, Singapore, China, Malaysia. However, there are exceptions, such as the Maldives, the Dominican Republic, the Philippines, or the United States;

Names of cities, towns, or states: Bangkok, California, Sydney;

Names of streets/roads: Sukhumvit, Ratchadamri;

Names of lakes and bays: Songkhla Lake, Lake Erie (except with a group of lakes, such as the Great Lakes);

Names of mountains: Mount Everest, Mount Fuji (except with ranges of mountains like the Andes or the Himalayas, or unusual names like the Matterhorn);

Names of continents: Asia, Europe;

Names of islands: Phuket Island, Easter Island, Maui (except with island chains like the Aleutians, the Hebrides, or the Canary Islands);

Use the before:

Names of rivers, oceans and seas: the Chao Phraya River, the Pacific Ocean;

Points on the globe: the Equator, the North Pole;

Geographical areas: the Middle East, the West;

Deserts, forests, gulfs and peninsulas: the Sahara Desert, the Gulf of Thailand, the Black Forest, the Iberian Peninsula.


Determine if the statements below need the in front of the noun that depicts a geographic location.

1. ................ Rocky Mountains separate the West from the rest of the United States.

2. Our family went to ......... Lake Titicaca for a holiday.

3. A great city to visit is ............. Dubai.

Answers: 1. Yes. 2. No. 3. No.

Heather Vlach is an English-language specialist and Intensive Studies educator at International School Bangkok in Nonthaburi. You may send an email to her at

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