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The British Isles is the name for a collection of about 4000 islands, including Great Britain and Ireland. The name, the British Isles, is usually only seen on maps.

Great Britain, known as Britain or GB, is the name for the largest of the islands in the British Isles. It includes England, Scotland and Wales. It does not include Northern Ireland or the Republic of Ireland. You see the abbreviation GB on driving licences of people who live in England, Scotland and Wales.

The United Kingdom or UK is a political term which includes England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. All of these countries are represented in Parliament in London and the abbreviation UK is used on most official documents produced by Parliament.

Everybody from the UK is British, but be careful: only people from England are English. People from Wales think of themselves as Welsh; people from Scotland as Scottish; people from the Republic of Ireland as Irish and people from Northern Ireland as either British or Irish.

The title The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Nothern Ireland is used on British passports.

Britain is split up into counties. The word county describes an area with its own local government. County councils are elected to run things, such as education, housing, town planning, rubbish disposal. They look after things like roads, libraries and swimming pools. Many counties, like Yorkshire, Berkshire and Lancashire, contain the word shire, which is an old word for county. In writing, it is usual to abbreviate the names of counties containing the word shire: Lancashire becomes Lanes Wiltshire becomes Wilts; South Yorkshire becomes S.Yorks. But Essex stays Essex and Durham stays Durham.

True or false?
Correct the sentences that are false.

1. If you hold a British passport, you are from England, Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland.

2. Someone from Scotland can represent GB in the Olympic Games.

3. A person from the Republic of Ireland is British.

4. The capital of Wales is Swansea.

5. The capital of Northern Ireland is Belfast.

6. The highest mountain in England is Ben Nevis.

7. The river which runs through Oxford and London is the Thames.

The British flag, known as the Union Jack, is a combination of three flags; the Saint Andrew's cross, the Saint Patrick's cross and the Saint George's cross.

The Saint Andrew's cross is the Scottish flag. Saint Andrew, a fisherman, is one of the 12 apostles who followed Jesus Christ. Paintings of Saint Andrew often show him being killed on an X-shaped cross. Saint Andrew's Day is celebrated on 30 November. He is the patron saint of both Scotland and Russia.

The Saint Patrick's cross is the former flag of Ireland. Saint Patrick is the patron saint of Ireland. He was born about AD 390. He converted the Irish to Christianity and is supposed to have got rid of all the snakes in Ireland. Saint Patrick's Day is celebrated on 17 March.

The Saint George's cross is the English flag. Saint George is the patron saint of England. He was a soldier famous for saving the Princess Cleolinda from being eaten by a dragon. He wounded the dragon and took it back to the city of Silene on a lead like a dog. Saint George's Day is celebrated on 23 April. Saint George is also the patron saint of Germany, Portugal and Greece.

Who is the patron saint of your country? Why is s/he famous?

The Welsh flag shows a dragon. Saint David, the patron saint of Wales, started a number of monasteries in the country. Paintings of Saint David normally show him with a dove on his shoulder. His relics are now in Saint David's Cathedral in Wales. Saint David's Day is celebrated on 1 March.

A short history of Great Britain

  • Пять основных событий, которые сформировали историю английского языка.
    Customs and traditions of Great Britain