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I'm a French student in college currently taking elementary French II. I've had a lot more experience in Spanish and love studying languages in my free time. So, I'm not a total newbie ha! But one thing caught my attention. We were going through a list of countries to learn their French spelling and pronunciation when I realized that every country had an article preceding it (la France, l'Allemagne, le Canada, etc.) except for one country: Israël. Maybe it's a typo in our book, but it isn't l'Israël. It's just Israël. My professor (who is the chair of my university's language department with a doctorate in French and French studies) couldn't answer this question. And good wasn't much help either... So I'm asking you guys:

Why does Israël not have a definite article?

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It is new to me too.

I think both forms are acceptable and there are other countries apparently that do not need the definite article either (Andorre ,Djibouti among quite a few others as it seems)

Here is where I read about it.

This has come up on the forum before, I think. Basically, Israël is a bit of an exception in that it doesn't use an article. I think this came about historically because of the way the country is named (after the patriarch Jabob) -- effectively, syntactically, the country takes on the syntax of the name of a smaller region or city. (Bearing in mind that large regions can also use articles...)

It's not the only case, though. Another typical case is that of Island countries such as Cuba, Hong Kong etc: these also are generally used without articles.

Israel is a person name. It's the name given to Jacob by God. I think that's the reason. For Cuba, Chypre, Malte, Haïti I think each name has its specific story that explains the absence of the article.


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