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I'm now using Rosetta Stone to learn Spanish, and today I found the following sentences:

Estoy viajando a Italia para visitar unas ruinas antiguas.

Estoy viajando a la India para visitar este palacio.

However, I wonder why the latter sentence adds la after viajando and before India while the former doesn't, despite the fact that both sentences are used in similar ways (i.e. take a country as an objective).

So what is the difference between the two sentences and when to add la and when to not?

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    Me parece ver "a" después de "viajando" en ambas frases... La única diferencia significativa que veo es el artículo "la", puesto que, aunque hoy en día la mayoría de los países ya no llevan artículo, algunos todavía sí (la India, el Perú, la Argentina, ...). – Pedro Pablo Feb 19 '15 at 14:05
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    Translation: it seems to me that there is an "a" after "viajando" in both sentences. The only significant difference I see is the article "la"; though nowadays most country names doesn't go with an article, some still can. By the way: in your native language, "a la" means something like "in the"? – Pedro Pablo Feb 19 '15 at 14:18
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    Oops. It is la, not a. Now fixed. Sorry... – Blaszard Feb 19 '15 at 14:20
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    Possible duplicate: spanish.stackexchange.com/questions/672 – Gorpik Feb 19 '15 at 14:22
  • It's the same question but the answers are not quite good. – Jaime Feb 20 '15 at 23:06
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The reason is that the names of some countries have the article included in Spanish. India is one of them. Some of these countries could optionally have the article in front of the name, such as

(El) Afganistán

(La) Argentina

(Las) Bahamas

So, in

Voy de viaje a (la) India

The article "la" could be optional.

It wouldn't be the case for some other countries

Voy a El Salvador

The article is not only obligatory, is capitalized.

That is why you have the article in front of India but not in front of Italia.

Check this link to see learn a little bit more about the usage of a definite article before the name of countries, rivers, mounts, etc. (See section "Uso del artículo ante topónimos o nombres de comarcas, ríos, montes, etc.")

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    Very common: "la China" and "el Perú". – Rodrigo Feb 19 '15 at 14:32
  • Thank you for the excellent clarification. For countries that take the article as optional, is it still better to use it? (sorry I can't read the linked article; my Spanish skill is pretty rudimentary...) – Blaszard Feb 19 '15 at 14:36
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    @Gardecolo, I am more prone to not use the article, but it might be a personal preference. Preferences might also change depending on the different Spanish dialect or even the country you are referring to. India and Bahamas sound good to me with or without article. China or Perú sound just a little bit weird when they have it and La Argentina and El Canadá certainly call my attention (sound a little bit off). Since it is such a long list my recommendation would be to memorize just the countries that MUST use the article and don't use them for the rest. – Diego Feb 19 '15 at 14:58
  • I'm afraid that such list can be long, but here ara a couple resources: susana-translations.de/paises.htm and lema.rae.es/dpd/apendices/apendice5.html I hope you find them useful and not overwhelming. – Diego Feb 19 '15 at 15:03
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Depends a lot in the country you're writting. South American countries tend to have an article in the front of the name:

El Perú

La Argentina

El Ecuador

El Brasil

And some asian countries have an article as well:

La China

El Japón

La India

It's opcional in all cases but it's very common to hear them with the article specially with "El Perú", "La India" and "La Argentina". In the case of Peru it's written even in the constitution. "La China" and "el Japón" add a literary nuance.

La India is probably the most popular of all, it's everywhere as the norm but, again, ther is no problem if you don't write it.

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