In the use of articles with geographic names there are two prevailing tendencies: some of them are traditionally used without any article, others require the definite article.
1. Geographical names and place names with the definite article.
· Names of oceans (a), seas (b), straits (c), channels (d), canals (e), rivers (f), and lakes (g):
a) the Pacific (ocean), the Atlantic (ocean);
b) the Baltic (sea), the Mediterranean (sea);
c) the Magellan Strait, the Bering Straits;
d) the English Channel;
e) the Kiel Canal, the Suez Canal, the Panama Canal;
f) the Thames, the Nile, the Amazon, the Mississippi;
g) the Leman, the Baikal, the Ontario.
But when names of lakes are preceded by the noun lake (which is often the case), no article is used Lake Baikal, Lake Ohio, Lake Superior, Lake Ladoga,
· Names of deserts: the Sahara, the Gobi, the Kara-Kum,
· Mountain ranges and groups of hills: the Rocky Mountains, the Andes, the Alps, the Himalayas.
I have never climbed in the Alps in winter.
· Groups of islands: the Philippines, the Azores, the Bahamas, the Canaries, the Hebrides, the Bermudas.
It was his custom to spend his holidays in the Scilly Isles.
· Cardinal points:
the North, the South, the West. the East.
But in the expressions from East to West, from North to South no article is used.
· Names for special points on the globe: the North Pole, the Southern Hemisphere.
· Geographical regions: the Midlands, the Middle East, the Crimea, the South of England, the Caucasus, the Ruhr, the Transvaal, the Riviera.
The home-ownership rate in the South East of England is higher than in the North.
· Names of territories consisting of a word combination in which the last word is a common noun: the Lake District, the Yorkshire forests, the Virgin Lands.
2. Geographical names and place names without article.
· Names of continents: Europe, Asia, Africa, Australia, South America, North America.
No article is used either when names of continents are modified by such attributes as northern, southern, western, eastern, central, minor, south-west, south-east, Latin, e.g. Northern Europe, North America, Central Africa, Asia Minor, South-East Asia, Latin America, etc.
But we say the African continent, the Arctic and the Antarctic (regions) meaning the sea and the land round the North and South poles.
· Names of countries: France, Great Britain, China, Brazil.
No article is used either, when these nouns have such attributes as north(ern), south(ern), east(ern), west(ern), ancient, old, new, central, Soviet: West Germany, Old England, Ancient Greece, Southern France.
But names of countries that contain common nouns have the definite article: the USSR, the USA, the UK (the United Kingdom).
Plurals also have the definite article: the Netherlands, the Philippines.
With the names of countries that have developed from geographical regions there are often two possibilities, with and without definite article: Sudan or the Sudan, Yemen or the Yemen, Cameroon or the Cameroons. The tendency is to use the form without the definite article.
· Names of cities, towns and villages: Moscow, Rome, Brighton, Hastings, Grasmere.
But the Hague.
· Political and administrative regions of countries (states or provinces): California, Kashmir, Brittany.
He was at his home in Kent.
· Names of bays: Hudson Bay, Baffin Bay.
He worked as a tugboat man on Sun Francisco Bay.
· Names of peninsulas have no article if the proper name is used alone: Indo-China, Labrador, Scandinavia.
But we find the definite article if the noun peninsula is mentioned: the Balkan Peninsula, the Kola Peninsula.
· Names of separate mountain peaks: Elbrus, Mont Blanc, Everest, Vesuvius;
Some names of foreign mountains keep the definite article: the Matterhorn.
· Names of separate islands: Cuba, Haiti, Cyprus, Madagascar, Newfoundland.
· Names of falls and mountain passes: the Niagara Falls, the Swallow Falls; the Saint Gotthard Pass.
Note 1 The definite article is always used with the pattern: the common noun + of + a proper name: the City of New York, the village of Grasmere, the Cape of Good Hope, the Gulf of Mexico, the Straits of Gibraltar, the Straits of Malacca, the Straits of Dover, the Bay of Biscay, the Bay of Bengal, the Gulf of Finland, the Lake of Geneva, the Island of Majorca.
Note 2 Geographic names that generally take no article may be occasionally found with the definite or the indefinite articles. This occurs in the following cases.
· The definite article is found when there is a particularizing attribute.
In Ivanhoe Walter Scott described the England of the Middle Ages.
This isn’t the London I used to know.
· The indefinite article is found when a geographic name is modified by a descriptive attribute which brings out a special aspect.
The flier went în to say: "There will be a different Germany after the war."