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This is a minor grammar doubt I've had for some years and never entirely understood. It seems like, generally, country names are said without el or la in front, but occasionally they are.

This seems to be especially common with certain countries. For instance, I have never heard India mentioned except as "la India", and it seems like I've heard "el Perú" several times also, but I can't recall ever hearing someone say "el México" outside of some specific phrasings like "el México prehispánico" or similar. Is there some nuance here I'm missing?

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From the Diccionario Panhispánico de Dudas under the section "el":

Uso con topónimos. Ciertos topónimos incorporan el artículo como parte fija e indisociable del nombre propio, como ocurre en El Cairo, La Habana, La Paz, Las Palmas o El Salvador. Muchos nombres de países, y el de algunos continentes, pueden emplearse con o sin artículo, como es el caso de (el) Afganistán, (el) África, (la) Argentina, (el) Asia, (el) Brasil, (el) Camerún, (el) Canadá, (el) Chad, (la) China, (el) Congo, (el) Ecuador, (los) Estados Unidos, (la) India, (el) Líbano, (el) Pakistán, (el) Paraguay, (el) Perú, (el) Senegal, (el) Uruguay, (el) Yemen, etc. La preferencia mayoritaria por el uso con o sin artículo varía en cada caso, aunque con carácter general puede afirmarse que la tendencia actual es a omitir el artículo.

Basically, it has to do with the custom. Some countries always have an article; others do depending on the dialect of Spanish.

In short, if you hear a country that's always with an article, pretend like it's a part of the name; otherwise, don't worry about the article (but do be aware of the gender of the name: countries that end in -a are always feminine, for example, unless it's a stressed , like Panamá or Canadá).

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  • Una respuesta completa y clara, muchas gracias.
    – starscape
    Sep 13 at 20:03

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