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I made these sentences.

  1. I lived in northeast US.
  2. I lived in northeastern US.
  3. I lived in the northeast of US.
  4. I lived in northeastern area.
  5. I lived in northeast area.
  6. I lived in the northeast part of the country.
  7. I lived northeast.
  8. I lived northeastern country.

Are the sentences correct? Sometimes, I am not quite sure about how to use northeast vs northeastern, and also various forms of these. And are there any other possible forms besides those above?

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  • What does your dictionary say about the difference between Northeast and northeastern? You also need some articles "the" or "a". – James K Aug 30 '17 at 7:32
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    @JamesK - My dictionary lists the exact same adjectival meaning for both northeast and northeastern: "lying toward, near, or facing the northeast." I think this is a fair learner's question. – J.R. Aug 30 '17 at 9:23
  • @J.R. My dictionary does too. However, my question was for the OP. What does the OP's dictionary say? Since this question is about word meanings, the OP should demonstrate that they have used a dictionary. – James K Aug 30 '17 at 14:09
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    @JamesK - I agree that we should exhort our learners to do their own research, and to share the fruits of that research within the body of their questions. That said, I've seen plenty of times when an OP was asked, "What does your dictionary say about this?" when a dictionary wouldn't be an easy place to find an answer. As a community, we need to be careful about doing that, because it can make all of ELL seem very unwelcoming. P.S. I don't think this question is "about word meanings;" I get the impression the OP knows what these words mean. This is a question about phrase usage. – J.R. Aug 30 '17 at 14:50
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"The northeast" is a region of the United States roughly corresponding to the circled area in this picture:

northeast United States

As such, you can say you lived in "the northeast," which would mean you lived somewhere in that circle, but nothing more specific than that.

"Northeast" can also be used as an adjective, but in that case you need to describe what it's northeast of, otherwise the description is meaningless.

So you could say you lived "northeast of West Virginia," which would mean basically anything in the top 90% of the circle in the picture above.

Or you could just say "I live northeast," which would simply mean you live somewhere northeast of where you are currently standing. Again, distance is not really implied, so depending on context you might mean that you live in the neighborhood a few blocks to the northeast or in a town 100 miles northeast of the town you're currently in.

"Northeastern" is always an adjective, so you cannot say you lived in "the northeastern." There has to be some noun for it to modify.

As far as the distinction between "northeast" and "northeastern" when both are serving as adjectives, that's harder to pin down. I would say half the time native speakers make no distinction.

Sometimes I think "northeastern" implies a bit more precision than merely "northeast." For example, in the right context, "the northeastern United States" might correspond to this circled area:

northeastern United States

That might be particularly true if, for example, you were standing in Delaware (clearly part of "the northeast," the region) and wanted to describe that you live in upper Maine.

Confusingly, though, "northeastern" could also potentially imply a less precise description.

Maybe you live in Phoenix, Arizona, where it's 70 degrees F in the winter, and you're having a conversation about the colder temperatures in "the northeastern part of the country." In that case, "the northeastern United States" might refer to this circled area instead:

roughly northeastern United States

Here are some corrections for your sentences (except #6, which is fine as-is). Note that we need to use an article:

  1. I lived in the northeast US.
  2. I lived in the northeastern US.
  3. I lived in the northeast of the US.
  4. I lived in the northeastern area.
  5. I lived in the northeast area.
  6. I lived in the northeast part of the country.
  7. I lived in the northeast. or I lived northeast of [somewhere].
  8. I lived in the northeastern part of the country.

Note that there is a potential usage of #8 unmodified – i.e., "I lived in northeastern country" – that would be grammatically correct, but only if you use "country" to mean dictionary.com's fifth usage:

rural districts, including farmland, parkland, and other sparsely populated areas, as opposed to cities or towns

That kind of usage would be pretty folksy sounding to my ear, and probably wouldn't accurately describe living in the northeast region of the United States, not least of all because it is the most densely populated part of the US.

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  • But I've seen this example in a dictionary, "Snow in October is nothing strange in northeast China. " That's why I got an impression that I don't have to add 'the' in the sentences above. I've also seen this one "This is the genuine ginseng from Northeast." Is 'Northeast' here a noun? If yes, shouldn't it be 'the northeast'? – dan Aug 30 '17 at 23:55
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    @dan In the latter example, yeah, Northeast is a noun, and it should be "the Northeast." In the "northeast China" example, that is correct as-is. I didn't really think about this one too hard when posting this answer, but I realize now that you point it out that you have to use an article in your example sentences because "United States" takes an article. We typically say "the United States," not just "United States." But you don't say "the China," so "northeast China" is correct. Whether or not you need "the" doesn't really have anything to do with the word "northeast." – cjl750 Aug 31 '17 at 0:04
  • I think the Virginians would take issue with your red circle :) – Tᴚoɯɐuo Aug 31 '17 at 10:08

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