It annoys me the most not because I'm European (I'm American) but rather that I took the time to learn some basic world geography, including Europe, Asia, the US, South America, most of Africa, and I'm trying to learn Oceania and some other places. I know the difference; very few people at my school can say the same.
Oh man, yeah, that too. I'll just stroll into school, I could be talking about anything geography-related- something as simple as the Missouri capital of Jefferson City to the strange history of the Nagorno-Karabakh Autonomous Oblast, and I feel like I'm talking to a wall.
Is it possible because you were talking to people in other than their native language?
I know Sweden and Switzerland are different countries, I know where each of them is in Europe, but I vaguely recall that I mixed them up in English until I got more practice with their English names.
You won't believe how many times I have had to tell people that Dutch is NOT German...
When people see your name or they find out you speak Dutch, their first question is: "Oh, are you from the Netherlands?" "No, I am from Belgium. You know, the Flemish-speaking region!!!!" For us Belgians that is a rather offending question. Don't assume, we might give you a hateful look! :D Or the many times people come to Flanders and start conversing in French, considering everyone understands them. Please, don't do that! Inform yourself, because some might understand you, some might not and others might just refuse to talk to you! Brussels is a good place for French, Flanders is not! Some regions are a bit... ehm... "racist" sort of speak. They don't understand French and refuse to try or speak, because they just don't like the French-speaking part of our country. What might look like a small issue, could be a matter of life and death! No joking! Basic information: French - Wallonia and Brussels; German - more Wallonia; Flemish/Dutch - Flanders. And English works with our youth! Keep in mind! ;)
But it's not so simple. If I go to Belgium, one problem is that I don't speak Flemish. I once stayed in Drogenbos, which is theoretically in a Flemish speaking region, but French is widely spoken. And it's practically part of Brussels.
I'm not trying to make any point about what language should be used except that it can be quite confusing for visitors, and looking at a map of who speaks what where doesn't help.
Most places I would go to would tend to cater to tourists anyway, so I don't think it would be a big problem. And when I meet people from Belgium in the US, they tend to automatically assume that Americans are ignorant about Belgium anyway. And if I say that I like Belgium, I've been treated as if I must have been making it up.
No, I get that. I face those issues every day as a Fleming studying in Brussels. I think that a save choice is English, because most of us speak it well enough. If you do that, people will automatically consider you a tourist and will be more friendly in general. But there are always and everywhere haters.
Not always though. I know several people who don't speak English well (especially from Wallonia). Even once, back when I had no knowledge of Dutch whatsoever, about 10 years ago when visiting Gent, I was asking a nice old man for the road to get somewhere and he only knew Dutch and rusty French but very politely explained he couldn't understand a word of English.
Why is the definite article "die" being used here in "die Schweiz"?
Because countries which are grammatically masculine or feminine always need their article in German.
Would it be possible to omit it so as to yield "Schweden ist nicht Schweiz"?
No, that would be wrong.
Just as, for example, "United States is bigger than Netherlands" would be wrong in English - some countries simply need the definite article.
That is true, but there are very few countries in German that need "the" in front of them. So I think it is more similar to "the Netherlands" in English (die Niederlande); Switzerland is technically a mix of cantons united together...in English, more like "The Swiss Territories". The USA is also technically a plural group and gets "die" as well. Does anyone know of a country that takes "der"?
der Libanon, der Irak, der Sudan, ...
Also sometimes der Iran.
There is a sentence on Duolingo which talks about a Swede (as in, a person who lives in Sweden) in the accusative case -- den Schweden. Ich kenne den Schweden "I know the Swede" or something like that.
In that sentence, Schweden is the accusative case of the masculine word Schwede.
But in this sentence, Schweden is the name of the country, which is neuter.
So the word-form Schweden can be either masculine (in a non-nominative case) or neuter (in a non-genitive case). Perhaps the pop-up can only display one gender, rather than all genders that might possibly apply to a given word-form.
Relevant BBC News article: http://www.bbc.com/news/magazine-18233844
"There are many other country names that are habitually referred to with "the", such as Congo, Gambia, Yemen, Lebanon, Sudan, Netherlands, Philippines and Bahamas.
But according to several authoritative sources, such as the CIA World Factbook, the Times Comprehensive Atlas of the World and the US Department of State, only two countries, The Bahamas and The Gambia, should officially be referred to with the article.
The two Congos are officially Democratic Republic of the Congo and Republic of the Congo. And the longer, official name for Netherlands is Kingdom of the Netherlands.
In some of the other cases, says Ashworth, it's largely a question of usage and how people refer to them. Quite commonly, definite articles are attached to areas where they have a mix between geophysical names and a physical entity.
"Groups of islands like the Maldives and the Bahamas. You wouldn't say 'I'm going to Maldives, you'd say 'I'm going to the Maldives' because it's a geographical area."
Countries like the United States of America and the United Kingdom also carry the definite article because they are compound nouns with adjectives."
Oddly, the article doesn't acknowledge that particular for places like the Maldives, the US, UK, etc., "the" is used because the following noun is a plural.
It's not the country but the similarity of the names to somebody who isn't familiar with them. If I ask you about US states, do you know the difference between Idaho, Ohio and Iowa? Somebody in the US might tell you that they are nothing alike.
If you are from Sweden, you might not care about three random states with a combined population of 16 million people, but you can appreciate how people can be ignorant of places even with a lot of people.
keine is a negative indefinite article, but country names are proper nouns and always definite.
Also, Schweiz is feminine, and non-neuter country names always use the article.
Thus you need nicht die Schweiz.
keine Schweiz would mean "not a Switzerland" (as if there were many Switzerlands, but Sweden isn't one of them).
It's die here because it's in the nominative case.
- nominative: die Schweiz, e.g. Die Schweiz liegt zwischen Deutschland und Italien. "Switzerland lies between Germany and Italy."
- genitive: der Schweiz, e.g. die Größe der Schweiz "the size of Switzerland"
- dative: der Schweiz, e.g. Basel liegt in der Schweiz "Basle lies in Switzerland"
- accusative: die Schweiz, e.g. Ich fahre nächsten Sommer in die Schweiz "I'm going to Switzerland next summer"
- the country name Schweiz is feminine
- it is used in the nominative case here
- country names that are not neuter need their definite article with them in German
- the feminine nominative article is die
Thus, die Schweiz.
der Schweiz would be genitive or dative.
See also the comment thread started by petrdusek.
The questions says " Schweden ist nicht die Schweiz " and die should be also translated . Otherwise they could say " Schweden ist nicht Schweiz" !
Just like anytime you use an article, you need to conjugate the article for case. So since "die Schweiz" is feminine, we use "die" in the nominative and accusative, and "der" in the dative and genitive.
So "Schweden ist nicht die Schweiz" (nom.) but "Schweden ist nicht in der Schweiz" (dat.).
Arrrgh! I think in fact you just explained it, because that is exactly the phrase I remember hearing. I have not found a way to live with "der" applying to feminine dative. I have no end of trouble learning the article - noun pairings, and it is a complication that I really don't master. Thanks!
why is switzerland the only country that needs to be prefaced with "die"?
It's not the only country that needs a definite article.
All countries that are not neuter need one.
Some masculine countries: der Iran, der Irak, der Sudan, ...
Some feminine countries: die Schweiz, die Türkei, die Ukraine, ...
Some plural countries: die Niederlande, die Philippinen, die Vereinigten Staaten, ...
Fortunately, most country names are neuter in German.
Schweden, the country, is neuter.
Schwede, the person, is masculine. It follows the n declension (masculine weak noun) so it has -n in oblique cases (i.e. everything except nominative) in the singular: der Schwede, des Schweden, dem Schweden, den Schweden and all cases in the plural.
Schwede, the person, is countable, so it needs a determiner before it in the singular.
In the plural, Ich kenne Schweden could be ambiguous between "I know Swedes" and "I know Sweden".
But you could instead say Ich kenne viele Schweden which would be unambiguous again.