Polonius3 1,000 | 12,448 29 Jul 2010 #1I was explaining to a Pole learning English that countries and other geographic indicators containing two components or in the plural (Czech Republic, United States, United Kingdom former Soviet Union, Falklands, Antilles, etc.) all require the definite article 'the'. Exceptions are the Vatican and the Hague. So (wouldn't you know it?!) he askled what about Great Birtain which does not normally take the def. article except in sentences like 'The Great Britain of my childhood was a far nicer place.' Is there any rule about this, or is it one of the many exceptions that drive foreigners up a wall. As I was typing this, I realised one also says Northern Ireland, South Africa and West Virginia without a 'the', so maybe directions are exempted.Anyone know why we used to say 'the Ukraine' but no more?