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Using the definite article before a country/state name

Why do we write:

The UCI Road World Championships 2012 (when the year is mentioned)

The Republic of India (when there is only one nation) but NOT The India?

The Monaco Grand Prix (only one place which holds GP with that name)

Lake Baikal in South of the Russia (why not Lake Baikal in the Russia?)

I know the answer: The grammar usage is Definite Article but I'm looking for a clear explanation to this question.

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Sometimes there are no clear explanations other than That's the way we do it in English (or whatever language is being discussed). There are at least two and maybe three published books with A, An, and The in the title. They purport to explain English articles. They can't. It's native speaker knowledge and we native English speakers sometimes disagree because we don't all see things the same way. –  user21497 Oct 12 '12 at 13:08
    
Thanks for the response. Till date I get little confused about the usage; hope someone explains... –  akula Oct 12 '12 at 13:25
    
"Lake Baikal in South of the Russia" just sounds wrong to me. I'd say "Lake Baikal in the south of Russia." –  Roddy of the Frozen Peas Oct 12 '12 at 14:19
    
@Roddy....I think 'The' isn't used when writing small and big geographical area. Say, Asia or Australia. We don't say/write as The Asia or The Australia? Whereas when 'The' used when referring a country then The Australia fits? This is little confusing... –  akula Oct 12 '12 at 15:25
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marked as duplicate by FumbleFingers, Mitch, RegDwigнt Oct 12 '12 at 15:44

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3 Answers

The article the is usually used when the reference includes a word that can be a common noun and not just a proper noun, or when the proper element is an adjective.

Using the article

the United States
the British Commonwealth
the Time-Warner Building
the Republic of India
the Malay Peninsula

Not using the article

America
England
Time-Warner
India
Malaysia

This is far from universal, since you could say

Time-Warner Corporation
the Time-Warner Corporation

Occasionally phrases using identical words either use or omit the article depending on the word order

the State of New York
New York State

In this case, when the first word is a common noun, the article is used, when a proper noun (or part of a proper noun) the article is omitted.

Lakes seem to be an exception. In US we say

Lake Superior
Lake Louise

However, we tend to say

the Mississippi River
the River Jordan
the Jordan River
the Atlantic Ocean

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One of your examples is wrong. We do not write “the Russia” in English. Lake Baikal is in the south of Russia, or simply in south Russia or southern Russia.

In general, we do not use articles on names in English. All of these are wrong:

  • ∗the France
  • ∗the India
  • ∗the Russia
  • ∗the America
  • ∗the Monoco

In contrast, we do use articles before regular words:

  • the Republic of France
  • the country of Monaco
  • the Russian Federation
  • the United States of America
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Thank you all for answering. Please read my comment in top of the page to @Roddy. Perhaps the Russia example isn't correct. I don't get how exactly. Example: The South of France hosts two famous events, one is the Monaco GP. This I get it: no 'The' before nation. But why 'The' for Monaco GP? Thanks –  akula Oct 12 '12 at 15:36
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I think, in principle, you seek a reason for using "The".

It emphasizes

"The" gives presence to the topic. It gives specific attention. Maybe even it acts as an "subconscious honorific"... if you don't mind me making that up!.

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