Using articles with points of the compass

Using articles with north, south, east and west

Using the Zero article (-)

  • Sometimes the name of a place does not include an article. Unfortunately, there isn’t a rule for this. In these examples the point of the compass is an adjective


We spent some time in South America

He’s from North America

American States

We travelled through North Carolina

Have you been to South Dakota


He works in East Africa


I live in North London

We’re moving to South London

  •  Some places use ‘northern’, ‘southern’ etc in their names.

We’re going to Northern Ireland

She grew up in Western Australia

  •  You can also use northern, southern etc to refer to a large area.

He recommended going to eastern Spain

Their factories are based in western China

The food is fantastic in Southern Italy.

  • Points of the compass can also be adverbs and we don’t use an article for these either.

Walk south until you get to a park

They drove north for a few hours.

He lives 20 miles south of Madrid


Using the definite article (the)

  • We use ‘the’ when the point of the compass is a noun. As you can see, we often use ‘of’ after it.

I lived in the south of the city

The troubles are in the west.

We visited the south-east of Germany

They always go to the south of France in the summer.

  • Use capitals when part of the name

The West Country

The North Pole

The Far east

Using the indefinite article (a/an)

  • We use ‘a/an’ when the point of the compass is an adjective and it is followed by a noun

We have a south facing garden.

He has a northern accent.

They have an east coast cottage.