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"A series of caves are found at a site named Wadi Gawasis in the [Egypt's/ Egyptian] desert"

I don't find any technical difference in both options but still my book says Egyptian is correct answer. Is there any rule or should questions like this be solved by knowledge conventional terms? It is also interesting to note that we don't say Nepalian mountains or Chinian hill stations.

I guess that there are specific regions where tian should be used. If so, then please share a list where this usage is observed.

EDIT: Original Phrase

"In 2004, a team of archaeologists discovered the remains of shipyard in a series of caves at a site named Wadi Gawasis in the [Egypt's/ Egyptian] desert"

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  • 2
    Please double check that you have copied the phrase exactly. Could you also include the sentences that precede this one, please? Context will help users provide better answers.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Sep 30, 2016 at 17:57
  • 4
    If you have reproduced the question and answer exactly, the authors are in error and you should consider discarding this text. Sep 30, 2016 at 17:59
  • Qumran Caves are a series of caves, some natural, some artificial, found around the archaeological site of Qumran in the Judaean Desert of the West Bank. Source
    – Mari-Lou A
    Sep 30, 2016 at 18:38
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    @StoneyB: Indeed, but it's tempting to suppose OP has just missed the last letter of deserts. In which case I guess it's still a bad text, because someone has mistaken ideas about whether we should refer to, say, Irish peat-bogs or Ireland's peat-bogs. Sep 30, 2016 at 18:47
  • 1
    @ParthMaske better late than never, now the sentence makes more semantic and grammatical sense.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Oct 1, 2016 at 15:47

3 Answers 3

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"In 2004, a team of archaeologists discovered the remains of shipyard in a series of caves at a site named Wadi Gawasis in the [Egypt's/ Egyptian] desert"

If the above is the correct sentence, including the correct placement of the brackets [ and ], then only Egyptian is correct, because we don't use the definite article before Egypt except in such statements as the Egypt that I knew or the Egypt of the future.

And, the possessive '*the Egypt's desert' is always wrong. You can say 'Egypt's desert' (without the article).

PS- It's true that we don't say "Nepalian mountains or Chinian hill stations," but we do use the correct adjectival form and say "Nepalese mountains" and "Chinese hill stations."

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  • +1. I think this is what the problem was trying to emphasize.
    – J.R.
    Oct 1, 2016 at 15:36
  • @Alan Carmack If there was no "the", then would it be possible to differentiate between the choices? Oct 1, 2016 at 15:55
  • @Parth The noun phrase Egyptian desert requires the article. Oct 1, 2016 at 18:25
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Egypt's desert

is unambiguous and refer's to a desert under Egypt's ownership.

Egyptian desert

needs further context since it could mean the same as "Egypt's desert" but could also mean a "desert of the Egyptian" type, for example if there were different types of deserts.

Just as

Parisian cafe

does not necessarily mean a cafe in Paris, but a certain style of cafe.

In your example, the only possible answer is

Egyptian desert
A series of caves are found at a site named Wadi Gawasis in the Egyptian desert.

since the determiner "the" is being used, if "the was left out, then the answer would be

Egypt's desert
A series of caves are found at a site named Wadi Gawasis in Egypt's desert.

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  • No. Egypt's desert is quite ambiguous. As I pointed out in my answer, Egypt's desert and Algeria's desert are the same desert. Mali's desert, Libya's desert, Mauritania's desert. Still all the same desert -- the Sahara. In this case Egypt's does not imply ownership. It implies "desert that covers some or all of Egypt."
    – EllieK
    Sep 30, 2016 at 18:56
  • @EllieK I think if one refers to Egypt's desert it is a reference to the portion of the Sahara which belongs to Egypt in the same way that Egypt's Nile would refer to the portion of the Nile within Egypt and not the full extent of the Nile.
    – Peter
    Sep 30, 2016 at 19:00
  • I would call that the Egyptian Nile not Egypt's Nile. Egypt's Nile? Seriously? You're thinking of "Egypt's portion of the Nile." Which simply can be called the Egyptian Nile. Egypt's Nile, by the way, extends all way into Sudan. Egypt's Nile and Sudan's Nile are both the same river -- the Nile.
    – EllieK
    Sep 30, 2016 at 19:01
  • Please don't respond with nitpicks about Red Nile and White Nile.
    – EllieK
    Sep 30, 2016 at 19:05
  • Please check the edited question. P.S. sorry for the delay. Oct 1, 2016 at 14:59
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A good question because it is difficult to explain. There is only one desert in Egypt, the Sahara. If you say Egypt's desert you are then referring to the Sahara desert. Whether you mean to refer to the entire Sahara desert by calling it Egypt's desert or the particular area of the Sahara encompassed by Egypt is not clear without accompanying context.

Referring the Sahara as a whole ...

Egypt's desert[, the Sahara,] is vast, stretching beyond Egypt's borders and covering the whole of North Africa.

Or the Egyptian portion of the Sahara ...

Egypt's desert, unlike the rest of the Sahara, is rocky and relatively moist.

However, the following is unclear. Do we mean all of the Sahara or just the Egyptian Sahara?

Egypt's desert is rocky and relatively moist.

"The Egyptian desert," on the other hand, refers specifically to desert areas under the control of Egypt or, if it were the case, the whole of a smaller desert contained entirely within Egypt. The Egyptian desert ends at the border with Sudan and the Sudanese desert begins.

The following is not ambiguous...

The Egyptian desert is rocky and relatively moist.

You could also say...

Egyptian desert is rocky and relatively moist.

You should not say...

The Egyptian desert is vast, stretching beyond Egypt's borders..."

The Egyptian desert cannot stretch beyond Egypt's borders. At that point it ceases to be Egyptian desert.

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    The "Egyptian Desert" would work if this was a known proper noun, for example the "Caspian Sea", where the possessive "Caspian" is simply part of its name.
    – Andrew
    Sep 30, 2016 at 18:41
  • At the very least, Egypt has the Western and Eastern deserts - they pretty well must be separate deserts, since they're separated by the Nile. Sep 30, 2016 at 18:42
  • For further clarification you can think of it like this. "Are Egypt's desert and Algeria's desert the same desert?" Answer: Yes. "Are the Egyptian desert and the Algerian desert the same desert." Answer: They are part of the same desert but the Algerian desert is sandy and the Egyptian desert is rocky.
    – EllieK
    Sep 30, 2016 at 18:45
  • No need for desert nitpicking. No one is interested in the minutia of sub deserts within the Sahara. Egypt's desert is the Sahara. So is Algeria's. Please save the nitpicks for geography.stackexhange.
    – EllieK
    Sep 30, 2016 at 18:47
  • Please check the edited question. P.S. sorry for the delay. Oct 1, 2016 at 14:59

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