English as a Second Language/Definite article/capitals


QUESTION: Dear Shannon,

In Syria, there are cities named Latakia and Daraa.
Is it correct to say "I want to visit Tal Shihab waterfalls, Daraa". As you notice, only the words 'Tal Shihab' are capitalized and the definite article is not used before it!!!

"They were going to Latakia beech, Syria." As you notice, only the word 'Latakia' is capitalized and the definite article is not used before it!!!

Kind regards,
Antoine Ghannoum

ANSWER: Yes, this is a tricky one.  In general, if something is a name, we would treat it as we would a title of a book or movie, that is, capitalizing all the important words (but not articles and prepositions).  If something is not considered part of a name, then we would not use it (an article, for example), nor would we capitalize any extra words.

"When visiting New York City, be sure to visit the Statue of Liberty."
"On my vacation, I went to Miami, Florida, and spent a lot a time on South Beach."
"Many people are not familiar with the Ozarks, a mountain range in the United States of America."

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QUESTION: so, is it better to say 'the Tal Shaihab waterfalls'? And 'the Latakia beech'? of course without capitalizing 'waterfalls' and 'beech' because they are not part of the proper nouns.

ANSWER: Well it depends.  If it is any beach at Latakia, then yes, "a Latakia beach" would be ok.  If there is only one specific beach at Latakia but doesn't have a name, then you would say, "the Latakia beach."  But if it is a specific beach named "Latakia," then you would need to say "Latakia Beach."  The same is true for the waterfalls.

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QUESTION: Thanks for your reply.
I noticed that you wrote "Latakia Beach" ('beach' with a capital letter) - there may not exist a place at Latakia in this name. What is wrong with "Latakia beach"?

If such a place does not exist at Latakia, then you are correct to use "a/the Latakia beach."  You would need to use an article because there is nothing at Latakia with that specific name.  You would not need to capitalize "b" in "beach" because it is also not a name.  "Latakia" is simply being used as an adjective.

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Shannon Cole


I can answer questions related to learning the English and Spanish language.


I have taught ESL and Spanish since 1998 at the university and middle school levels. I am a native of the U.S., and have taught in both the U.S. and Mexico.

I am owner and operator of www.coleinstitute.com, an online language school.

Georgia TESOL in Action (1999)

B.A. in Spanish; M.Ed. in Language Education

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I have clients worldwide, some who want their documents proofread, and others who take lessons with me through the Internet. Some work at high-profile companies and government organizations. Besides the U.S. and Mexico, my recent students come from South Korea, Switzerland, Turkey, Colombia, Russia, Italy, Paraguay, China, Japan, the Philippines, and Saudi Arabia.

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