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It's correct to use the definite article before the name of a river, canal, sea and ocean:

  • When my father dies, we will have to wash him, wrap him in rich cloth, cremate him, and then sprinkle his ashes into the Ganges river.
  • The terminal is located to the north-east of the Suez Canal.
  • Land based pollution is relatively high in the Mediterranean compared to the other regional seas.
  • Titanic is at the bottom of the Atlantic ocean.

However, we don't use an article before a lake:

  • Look, this is Lake Victoria.

Why are lakes so special and different from rivers, canals, seas and oceans if it comes to the use of the article?

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    Not necessarily because lakes are anything special, but because the phrase begins with the word Lake and not with Victoria. "Boats on the Seneca Lake by the castle" ; "After all, this is the GREAT SALT LAKE." ; " Just past this point is the Avalanche Lake Trail junction." Compare:"but the main attraction is Lake Tahoma". – Kris Jun 20 '18 at 7:56
  • There's no general rule. We say "The Sea of Tranquility". – Barmar Jun 21 '18 at 0:43
  • @Kris Interesting... So, when we start with "lake", there is no article and when we start with the name, "the" is to be used. I've just thought about the Sea of Japan. "Sea" comes first, so the article should be omitted but it's not... Just an observation. – Enguroo Jun 21 '18 at 1:24
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    @Barmar but "The Sea of Tranquility" is not a geographic name. In addition, it's perfectly logical because of "the+seas" and "of". – Enguroo Jun 21 '18 at 1:26

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