05 July 2015

Why Filipinos are Correct in Saying THE Philippines Instead of Philippines


I am sure that I am not the only one who gets annoyed hearing other nationalities say ‘Philippines’ instead of ‘the Philippines’ as all of us were taught early in our lives to say. The article the, in fact, is part of the name of our country.

We never say Republic of Philippines. Instead, we always say Republic of the Philippines.

The web site OWL or Online Writing Lab of Purdue University explains that there are geographic rules to observe when using the article the before the name of a specific country.

One should never use the article before the names of countries like Italy, Mexico or Bolivia; but it is definitely a requirement for countries like the Netherlands, the Dominican Republic, the Philippines and the United States.

Even this geographic rule, however, has a grammatical basis.

I am feeling magnanimous as I write this article so I will say that I expect that even those of you who snored through English grammar will recall that among the eight parts of speech is this type of word that is called the article.

The article, which is used to precede a noun, indicates whether that noun is definite or indefinite. Hence, there are two types of articles.

A/an are called indefinite articles. When I say a player, I can be referring to any player. When I say an object, I can be referring to any object.

The, meanwhile, is what is called a definite article. It is used to indicate that the following noun is specific or particular, especially as part of a group.

For example, a boss can say to his employees, “I will promote the employee who has the best performance rating for the entire year.”

He is not referring to just any of his employees but the employee who meets his criterion for promotion.

In grammar school, we were taught that one way to determine without a doubt that the was correct rather than a/an was if the noun could satisfy the question 'which.'

Thus, to answer the question ‘which runner’ you do not say a fastest runner. Instead, you say the fastest runner.

To segue back to the point of this article, the definite article the is in fact a grammatical necessity for our example countries.

Nader is Dutch for down or downwards; the same as its English version nether. Loosely translated, therefore, the Netherlands means the Low Countries. The condition satisfies the question “which countries.”

Ditto for the Dominican Republic (which republic) and the United States (which states). By this time, you are probably scratching your pate and asking what ‘which’ question the Philippines satisfies.

Fear not, we are all still grammatically correct.

Remember that under the Spaniards we also used to be known as Las Islas de las Filipinas and under the American regime as the Philippine Islands. In fact, even to this day there are those in the States who still refer to the country as the PI, no reference to a very rude Tagalog swearword.

We all conclude, therefore, that the Philippines is a modern version of the Philippine Islands and, thus, answers the question “which islands.”


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