Why do we say на Фиджи / на Мальдивы / на Шри-Ланку but в Японию / в Ирландию / в Исландию?

All the 6 countries are island countries. But Fiji, the Maldives and Sri Lanka are smaller than Japan, Ireland or Iceland (although the size of Iceland is almost the same as the one of Ireland). Does size matter when choosing the preposition for an island country?


3 Answers 3


Being an island is something that encourages usage of на, but not sets it in stone.

на is rarely (if ever) used with the names in -ия/-ея, so we use в Новую Зеландию, в Японию, в Папуа — Новую Гвинею etc.

Some regions are located on an island or an archipelago but are historically used with в: в Сингапур, в Доминикану (but на Гаити, even though the two share the same island)

Finally, на Гоа is widely used in Russian, even though it's not an island region, although many Russian speakers object to this usage.


Well, strictly speaking there's no such island as Japan, one say "на Хоккайдо" but "в Японии". So there's no more mystery in that in, say, "на Бали" ad opposed to "в Индонезии".

With Фиджи it's slightly more complicated. While there's no such island as well, the whole archipelago is called Fiji, so you can say "в Фиджи" when you refer to it as a country or "на Фиджи" when you think about it as a group of islands. In colloquial speech this is used quite often interchangeably.

So, generally speaking when you refer to a destination as a state, you use "в" (like in "в Шри-Ланке"), you use "на" when you talk about an island (like in "на Шри-Ланке").

There are some notable exceptions though - Ирландия, Исландия, (and Великобритания by the way) are islands but "на"-firm is never used. This exceptions are important and the only thing can be done - is to memorize them.


It may have to do with the presence of the ending -ия in the name, which precludes its association with an isle, perhaps because of gender discrepancy between the words островmasc (which requires preposition НА) and those ending with -ияfem (which tend to require preposition В), also В Британии. However НА Сицилии - so may be not or not in all cases.

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