In American English, where “town” is the actual legal name of a place, as I understand, the name is “Town of”, followed by its proper name.

In my native Italian, the equivalent “Comune di” it means not only the actual town, but also the municipality territory, and the spoken language, much like English, generally are both referred only with the town name.

How is called, in spoken language, a town referring to the urbanized area, without an outlying rural area that is still legally part of the town? For example, an hypothetical place called “Town of Springfield”, will be referred simply as “Springfield” by its citizens and the inhabitants of nearby towns or cities, but how will be called to explicitly differentiate the settlement from the whole municipality?

Someone I know, not a native speaker of English, says that the form “Springfield Town” will be used, but I'm a little puzzled by the capital T for “Town” that, as far as I know, a capital letter is not generally used until a word it's part of a proper name. Is he correct or the appropriate form is another?

Thanks for the answers :)

  • Here in England, we have two 'Oldham's (in Greater Manchester). Wikipedia explains: <<The Metropolitan Borough of Oldham is a metropolitan borough of Greater Manchester, England. It has a population of 228,765, and spans 55 square miles (142 km2). The borough is named after its largest town, Oldham, but also includes the outlying towns of Chadderton, Failsworth, Royton and Shaw and Crompton, the village of Lees, and the parish of Saddleworth.>> Sep 16 '16 at 16:59
  • Consider "inner city" Sep 16 '16 at 20:39
  • In the UK, the political map (local politics) of a town's urban area is divided up into "wards". Its church equivalent is the "parish". Sep 16 '16 at 20:48

From an American perspective!

I think that the structure of Italian towns doesn't quite correspond to the structure of American towns; so an answer from BrE might be more appropriate. Nonetheless, I thought I'd contribute.

My understanding is that all of Italy is divided into a municipality (a comune), which contains the actual town and any outlying areas.

However, that's not generally the case in the United States, especially out west.

Take a look at Yakima, Washington, a town in my state.

Yakima, WA, USA

The red area is the city of Yakima (in Washington, there is no legal difference between a "city" and a "town," although my understanding is that there is a difference, especially in New England), whereas the rest is Yakima County, somewhat equivalent to an Italian province, but still subordinate to the state of Washington.

So, while they share the same name, what you're discussing (the city or the county) is obvious.

So here come my suggestions:

  • Usually people in these areas who live more rurally will talk about going "into town," where which town is usually obvious from context.
  • The "city proper" refers to the legal boundaries of Yakima, as you can see, there are suburbs of Yakima on the map, and those are distinct legal entities. So, if you were discussing the area and needed to refer to something in the city of Yakima, you could use that, in contrast with something outside its legal boundaries.
  • People who live in Yakima proper might tell people "I live in Yakima," if they don't live in the city boundaries, they would say "I live outside of Yakima." I have friends who don't live in a city or a town, so they say "I live in Snohomish County."

Now, that's not to say some cities don't have rural areas within their boundaries. Anchorage, Alaska, comes to mind. Since it is a unified city-county, it contains huge areas of rural land, and Wikipedia calls the actual city part "the urban core," which would only work if the city in question has urban areas.

You might also try "downtown" to refer to the center of the city, even when it is spread out.


This is a long way of saying that, at least in my neck of the English woods, this is a problem that doesn't exist, I would be interested in hearing from some Brits or even some Anchoragites, but I hope I gave you some perspective.

  • Thank you very much for your answer. If I read correctly, the correct way to indicate a town itself will be "City of Yakima" or "Town of Yakima" and not "Yakima City/Town" as I was suggested before posting here?
    – SophieV
    Sep 16 '16 at 19:23
  • 1
    Yes, if it's not "Oklahoma City," the proper way is "City/Town of ..." (Even Oklahoma City's proper name is "City of Oklahoma City.") There's only a few exceptions, New York City is one (the city is properly named only New York) but I would always go with the first construction (in the States). Sep 16 '16 at 20:52
  • Such terminology ("town" etc.) can be unofficial or official in some states. And different states use the terms differently. In New York State, for example, within counties you can have towns (same as townships, in some states), and within towns or townships you can have cities. In some cases in some states a city might cover the same area as a county, and the two might even be combined (City and County of San Francisco, for instance).
    – Drew
    Sep 16 '16 at 20:53
  • Yes, "townships" are common in New England, I know nothing about them, but that could be another answer. Sep 16 '16 at 20:59

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