If I want to write the name of a region like "(the) Middle East" or "(the) Northern Africa", do I have to put the definite article in front of that? Is there a general rule?
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I am speculating here.
I also say "the East Midlands" and not "the West Yorkshire" when referring to regions in England. That leads me to note that we say "the Midlands" and not "the Yorkshire".
So I speculate that the difference is that Africa and Yorkshire are formal names and we don't use "the" with formal names. We don't say
we do say
the young man
East and Midlands are descriptive terms that have become nouns.