We use articles ('a' or 'an', 'the', and 'no article') in quite complicated ways in English. There are a few rules, but often (especially for proper nouns like the names of places or people) it's not very logical - sorry! Today, I'll talk about one situation where students often mistakes with English articles – geographical names (like mountains, lakes, countries and seas). We usually use either 'the' or 'no article' when we talk about geographical names.

We use 'the' with:
  • Rivers
  • Deserts
  • Oceans and seas
  • I visited the Nile.
  • She rode across the Sahara.
  • They flew across the Pacific.
We use 'no article' with:
  • Lakes
  • Continents
  • Regions and States
  • Cities, towns and villages
  • We sailed on Lake Ontario
  • She travelled through Asia.
  • They went to California.
  • They come from Belgrade.
Two strange cases:

We use 'the' with groups of islands BUT we use 'no article' with one island: In the same way, we use 'the' with mountain ranges BUT we use 'no article' with one mountain: Finally: countries

We use 'no article' with most countries: But we use 'the' if the country's name is plural: Or, if the country has the word 'kingdom' or 'republic' in it: (This means some countries take 'the' with their full name 'the Republic of China' but not with their normal, shorter name 'China')


I've made two exercises especially for the readers of Kako da nikada ne nauciš engleski.
  1. The first exercise talks about rivers, deserts, oceans, lakes, continents, regions and cities.
  2. The second exercise talks about islands, mountains and countries.
(This post is by Seonaid from