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I'm a non-native speaker of English. A lot of people say although you would say 'I went to the country,' meaning 'I went to a rural area,' you wouldn't likely say 'I went to the countryside.' Is this true?

Addendum: They say 'the country' is a location whereas 'the countryside' is the scenery or landscape, and that that's why you normally wouldn't say 'go to the countryside.' However, some insist that a few people, if not many, nonetheless say it.

Addendum2: I was just wondering if 'go to the countryside' was used. Could I conclude, then, reading all your answers and comments, you could say 'go to the countryside' if you meant 'go into the beautiful rural space'?

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Have you checked dictionaries for definitions? What you have found would help. Your question about common usage would still be appropriate. –  bib Sep 21 '12 at 12:12
    
I "go out in the country" when I do this. –  Brian Hooper Sep 21 '12 at 12:14
    
You can say it either way -- depending on what you are trying to convey -- according to the meanings of country and countryside. See also my answer below. –  Kris Sep 21 '12 at 12:28
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4 Answers

This is based on Bill Franke's examples but is different enough that adding it to his answer would be improper.


I'll note in each of his examples whether the other form of country/countryside may be used and will comment in some cases:

Examples of COUNTRY

He moved to the north country to fish and hunt.

No (ie cannot use countryside). 'North country' has a common-usage 'feel' which n.c'side does not have.

We went camping in the hill country.

No. Same as north country. "the hill country" is almost an implied proper noun in the hearer's mind.

They drove through miles of open country.

Yes. Almost completely interchangeable. Neither usage would attract attention if used. Countryside may have a very slight bias towards 'romanticism' but only slight.

She lives out in the country.

Yes. Country would be more normal but countryside would not usually attract attention.

They prefer the country to the city.

Yes, but countryside would be less common.


and

For countryside: "a rural area"

Examples of COUNTRYSIDE

We took a long drive through the open countryside.

Perhaps. If one used "country" it would probably be after having discussed built up and open areas. There may be wooded areas and grassed areas and "open country" would better refer to the grassed areas. ie "open" implies spaciousness in "open country".

Everyone hates to see the countryside ruined by new developments.

No. Use of country here would be understood to be referring to "the nation". eg Engl;and as opposed to a rural area.


While they are frequently synonymous, they aren't fungible (interchangeable).

So, the non-fungibility is frequently frangible - but, not always.

:-).

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"frequently frangible": I like it! –  user21497 Sep 21 '12 at 15:25
    
@BillFranke - 'Franke found "frequently frangible" frolicksome.' :-) [fun, funny, fantastic, ~flippant,...] :-) . –  Russell McMahon Sep 24 '12 at 7:33
    
@BillFranke Re " ... Believe that most usage questions are really about style and personal preferences,.." -> Often enough, yes. But you also often enough get examples where much of what's possible is preference but a small proportion of examples are strongly biased one way or the other or only correct one way. eg Here "north countryside" and "hill countryside" would be stilted or wrong - and would probably immediately 'out' one as being a foreigner, and "country ruined" miscommunicates the meaning AND YET the other examples are all largely a matter of choice. How marvellous English is :-). –  Russell McMahon Sep 24 '12 at 7:40
    
@BillFranke - Taiwan you say. City? I've been to Taichung twice, via Taipei. Visiting again would be nice but probably not in this lifetime. (12 times to mainland China since). [[Engineer. Retire - what's that? :-). NZ]] –  Russell McMahon Sep 24 '12 at 7:42
    
"Retired" = I was forced to leave my university EFL job at 65. I haven't quit working, not by a long shot -- editor: every day and night. Ain't rich, ain't demented (most of the time, anyway), and ain't lazy. Still got a minor dependent (16-year-old son in high school). Just bought a restaurant in Tainan City. Life continuously begins anew. I like a good sense of humour. You've got one. :-) –  user21497 Sep 24 '12 at 8:58
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Here's what M-W online says (relevant definitions only):

For country: "1: an indefinite usually extended expanse of land : region ; ... 4: rural as distinguished from urban areas {prefers the country to the city}"

Examples of COUNTRY

He moved to the north country to fish and hunt.

We went camping in the hill country.

They drove through miles of open country.

She lives out in the country.

They prefer the country to the city.

and

For countryside: "a rural area"

Examples of COUNTRYSIDE

We took a long drive through the open countryside.

Everyone hates to see the countryside ruined by new developments.

While they are frequently synonymous, they aren't fungible (interchangeable).

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Country or countryside both the words can be used for mentioning rural areas or areas that are not urbanized.

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To help make this an authoritative resource, a cite or two supporting your position (which I think is correct) would be useful. –  bib Sep 21 '12 at 12:10
    
@bib I agree. –  xdumaine Sep 21 '12 at 12:32
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Use country where the reference is geographical or to the fact that it is some distance from an urban area.

Use countryside when you talk about the quality of the place, in contrast to the city.

See explanations on oald (http://oald8.oxfordlearnersdictionaries.com/dictionary/champion_2) country (often the country) an area that is away from towns and cities, especially one with particular natural features: She lives in the country. ◇ an area of wooded country

countryside land outside towns and cities, with fields, woods and farms. Countryside is usually used when you are talking about the beauty or peacefulness of a country area: a little village in the French countryside.

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A man told me he would say 'in the (place) countryside,' but wouldn't use the bare 'in the countryside.' –  Sssamy Sep 21 '12 at 12:29
    
Naturally, because the (place) is what he is qualifying with countryside. See above: "a little village in the French countryside." –  Kris Sep 21 '12 at 12:32
    
@Ssamy: Like most usages, this is merely a style choice and not a rule of grammar or semantics. Speakers will naturally say what they say and will almost always be able to justify it for one reason or another, specious or not. Do a Google search and find 92,400,000 results for "in the countryside" without (place). That's what's said and that's what's written. –  user21497 Sep 21 '12 at 12:47
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