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Country‏ vs Countries vs Countryside

Countryside in ItalyThis is the vocabulary which often causes problems with learners: words which look pretty much the same and which most logical people would regard as closely related, but then when you look into it a little more, they’re all over the place!

Let’s start with Country and a couple of definitions:

  1. country = a nation or sovereign state, e.g. the USA‏‎ or Russia‏‎
  2. country = wide open space without buildings, etc

This last one makes it almost synonymous with Countryside.

The definitions on this page are worth bringing this up in your TEFL class when you come across either word.

Country as Nation

This is countable and refers to a nation. It is always capitalized when we name that nation.

Of course Australia is a large country.

I will visit Spain, Italy and Greece during my holiday this year.

There are 7 countries attending the conference.

There are 4 words associated with each country, all of which are capitalized.

  1. country name, e.g. America or Britain
  2. adjective‏‎, e.g. a German car or a Russian dance
  3. a singular noun for the person from that country, e.g. a Dane or a Spaniard
  4. a plural noun for the people from that country, e.g. the Danish or the Spanish

Often the adjective, singular noun and plural noun will be the same but there are exceptions.

Generally we use the neuter pronoun, it, to refer to a country:

San Marino is an enclave in Italy. It is one of the smallest countries in the world.

However, in a poetic (and often patriotic) sense we can refer to a country as male or female. This often happens when we personify the country and it is usually female, but not always.

England will never fall; she will always be victorious.

Mother Russia is in bad shape; she will recover, but it may take some time.

Country as Countryside

When talking about country meaning a wide open space without buildings (i.e. countryside), we use the country without a capital. It is non-countable and is used in a phrase with the definite article‏‎: the country.

I love the country in Autumn – all those colours!

Which do you prefer – the country or the city?

Here we only use the the personal pronoun, it.

I love the country at this time of year; it‘s so relaxing.

 photo credit ICAL TEFL via cc

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