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Why is the article "the" used to address certain specific countries (this is especially true when one is introducing where they come from)

such examples are;

I am from the United States of America

I am from the Netherelands

while in some, it sounds weird

examples are;

I am from the Finland or I am from the Malaysia?

Are there some rules I'm missing here?

marked as duplicate by FumbleFingers, Mitch, 200_success, NVZ, user140086 Jun 18 '16 at 19:06

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In most cases, "the" is used with country names that are a description (the United States, the United Kingdom, the Soviet Union, the Republic of Korea), but not single-word names, (America, Britain, Russia, Korea [without "Republic of"]). The Netherlands is historical: think "Nether Lands" (i.e., the low countries).

You would also use "the" before countries with plural names, typically island nations (the Philippines, the Bahamas). This is likely a shortening of the X Islands, since that's used in many other contexts as well (e.g., the Falklands = the Falkland Islands).

However, there are several exceptions (the Gambia, the Congo, etc.). Finally, some are determined by fiat ("the Ukraine" is now just "Ukraine").

  • How about the Philippines? – user140086 Jun 6 '16 at 17:16
  • @Rathony good point about countries with plural names. I'll edit my post to add it. – Mike Harris Jun 6 '16 at 17:17
  • The Congo, The Sudan, The Philippines, The Bahamas,... – FumbleFingers Jun 6 '16 at 17:19
  • My rule of thumb is as follows. America is a proper noun which is named after its discoverer. However, "united states" is not a proper noun like kingdom, republic, union, King Philip's islands (Philippines) and low lands (Nederlands), etc. I need to research further for Gambia, Congo, Ukraine. I would have posted my answer if I had researched further. +1) – user140086 Jun 6 '16 at 17:36
  • The Gambia (just Gambia is also used) and the Congo are probably done this way because of the eponymous river that is the nation's main topographical feature. Similarly, the Bronx in New York City. – Steven Littman Jun 6 '16 at 17:49

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