The phrase "going to the Maldive Islands" is quite common and it fits the rules. However, when it comes to using just "Maldives", both "to the Maldives" and "to Maldives" are used. Which one is the correct one?

Since Maldives are a number of islands, it seems like "going to the Maldives" is the correct version. So why are both phrases used interchangeably or is there a rule I need to know?

Thank you so much in advance.

  • There is a related thread, perhaps it might be helpful for you: english.stackexchange.com/questions/83862/… – F.E. May 7 '14 at 6:18
  • So "the Maldives" is the correct one, right? Thanks. – Bee May 7 '14 at 6:28
  • It might depend on the context. I've added stuff to my post which might help you out on this. – F.E. May 7 '14 at 7:05

Here's a related excerpt from the 2002 CGEL, page 517: (bolding is due to me)

Plural proper names are always weak. Plural names apply to mountain ranges (the Alps, the Himalyas [sic], the Urals); island groups (the Bahamas, the Hebrides, the Maldives); occasional other geographical entities (the Netherlands, the Balkans, the Dardanelles). Groups of performers may have weak plural names (the Beatles) or strong collective singulars (Abba).

Note that the CGEL is the 2002 reference grammar by Huddleston and Pullum et al., The Cambridge Grammar of the English Language (CGEL).

ADDED: Here are a few links to a few wikipedia articles:

If you skim through them, you'll see how they phrase it -- Maldives (Islands) vs the Maldives (Islands). The way they do it might be helpful, or it might not.

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  • That's why it sounds confusing to me! If you read the first article, they use both "Maldives" and "the Maldives" and I cannot figure out the pattern. "The Maldives" sounds more like the country, and "Maldives" like a place. I am so confused. – Bee May 8 '14 at 5:48
  • @Bee Using "the Maldives (Islands)" sounds like the safe default; while the version without the determiner "the" might be more restricted, perhaps mainly used only when the government is being referred to (though, even here, the determiner "the" can often be used too). – F.E. May 9 '14 at 18:27
  • Thank you! Although using "the Maldives" when referring to the government, makes perfect sense to me personally. I just need to know when (and why) to use "Maldives" without the definite article. – Bee May 12 '14 at 11:22

I'm a native Maldivian. We in the Maldives just say "Going to the Maldives".

That is because the word "Maldives" is a country name & a Noun, which if you loot at the etymology/Toponym you will find that its a Anglicised local/Regional name. "Maale Dhives" was used by Sri lankans and Maldivians. which itself comes from Sanskrit "Maala Dvipa", Maala meaning Garland & Dvipa meaning Island.

So if you use Maldives Island, it sounds funny when you know the meaning of Maldives.

If that is unusual you can try to use the locla Name "Dhivehi Raajje", Dhivehi meaning of the Isalnd/Island & Raajje meaning Realm.

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Here is an Ngram chart for "to Maldives" (blue line) versus "to the Maldives" (red line) for the period (1900–2008):

As you can see, the "to the Maldives" form seems to be considerably more common in published texts. A look at the Google Books search results underlying the Ngram reveals concentrations of usage of "to Maldives" in UN reports and other sources referring to the nation (Republic of Maldives)—although this is by no means a unanimous treatment. Consider, for example, this excerpt from Yesim Elhan, Asian Development Bank, Technical Assistance to the Republic of the Maldives for Strengthening of Debt Management (2003):

The public debt management (PDM) specialist will be an economist with high-level academic qualifications and significant experience in managing public debt in small, developing economies, preferably those comparable to the Maldives.

On the other hand, references to the geographical islands comprising the Republic of Maldives tend to draw the wording "to the Maldives, as Kris's (now deleted) answer very neatly observes. But this, too, is not a universally observed distinction. From T.R. McClanahan, C.R.C. Sheppard & D.O. Obura, Coral Reefs of the Indian Ocean: Their Ecology and Conservation (2000):

It is said that an ancient group of sun-worshipping people called the Redin came to Maldives from Sri Lanka, or from the northwest in general, 4000 years ago, bringing with them their beliefs in spirits (djinni).

Obviously, the immigrants 4,000 years ago came to the Maldives (the islands) not to Maldives (the country).

Still, on balance, the Google Books search results strongly support the geographical ("to the Maldives")/national ("to Maldives") distinction that Kris's answer lays out.

Since Kris's answer is no longer visible to most readers, I will quote two key sentences from it here:

(the) Maldive islands are a group of [1,200 small coral] islands, a geographical area.


Maldives (formerly known as Maldive Islands) is a nation [independent since 1965] that geographically comprises of several islands.

According to Kris's sources, only about 220 of the 1,200 physical islands of the Maldives have human inhabitants, and the nation located there, at one time a colonial possession of the UK, is formally called Republic of Maldives.

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I noticed that people tend to use the Maldives, but the official name of the country is the Republic of Maldives, so we should use Maldives instead.

Another easy mistake is the Sudan. People tend to use Sudan, but the country is actually called the Republic of the Sudan, so the Sudan is the correct usage (South Sudan's official name is the Republic of South Sudan, so South Sudan is the correct usage).

Country names are confusing, we just have to remember those weird ones.

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  • But the Chief Justice of the Maldives is known as the Chief Justice of the Maldives. [Wikipedia] and [Supreme Court of the Maldives] He/she's the one who pronounces on how things should be ordered, so we should use 'the Maldives' instead. // Deducing rules from original usages can become hyperprescriptivist: the etymological heresy, when words are involved. – Edwin Ashworth Oct 13 at 14:08

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