35 Country and Place Names That Use the Definite Article in Spanish

Where in the World Do You Need a Definite Article?

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Use of the definite article, the equivalent of "the" in English, with country or place names is much more common in Spanish than in English, although it is not often required. The definite articles in Spanish are el and la, both meaning, "the." El is used to modify masculine nouns or places. La is used to modify feminine nouns or places.

The only case where the definite article is used in most all cases is if you are modifying a country or place with an adjective or a prepositional phrase.

For example, Soy de España means "I'm from Spain," and no definite article is needed. But, if the place becomes modified with an adjective, like being called, "beautiful," then the definite article is retained. For example, Soy de la España hermosa, which means, "I'm from beautiful Spain." Another example, there is no definite article in México es interesante, meaning, "Mexico is interesting," but, there is the definite article in El México del siglo XVI era interesante, meaning, "16th-century Mexico was interesting."

Five Countries That Should Keep the Definite Article

Unfortunately, there is no way to predict when to use the definite article, although most of the time where English uses the definite article, such as when referring to the Dominican Republic or The Hague, Spanish does also. The following list included the countries that should have the definite article used in most cases, although Spanish language rules are not strict about it.

El Cairo
La Haya (The Hague)
La India
La República Dominicana
El Salvador

Other Place Names That Use a Definite Article

So while you can say el Brasil to refer to Brazil, Brasil by itself will also do just fine in most cases. The article seems to be used more often in speech than in contemporary writing. For example in newspapers and online references in Spanish, Estados Unidosthe Spanish translation for "United States," is frequently written without the article.

Following are the most common countries and places that may have a definite article:

La Arabia Saudita (Saudi Arabia)
La Argentina
el Brasil (Brazil) 
el Camerún (Cameroon) 
el Canadá
la China
el Cuzco (city in Peru)
el Ecuador
los Estados Unidos (the United States)
las Filipinas (the Philippines)
la Florida
la Habana (Havana) 
el Irak (Iraq)
el Irán
el Japón (Japan)
el Líbano (Lebanon)
La Meca (Mecca)
el Nepal
los Países Bajos (the Netherlands)
el Pakistán
el Paraguay
el Perú
el Reino Unido (the United Kingdom) 
el Senegal
la Somalia
el Sudán
el Tibet
el Uruguay
el Vietnam
el Yemen