I see a lot of answers conflating countries - geographical units, areas, places - with the states governing those countries. Example: Great Britain is a country (although, arguably, an island with the three countries of England, Scotland and Wales), but not a state, while the United Kingdom (of Great Britain and Northern Island) is a state, but not a country.

I usually ignore this distinction when I read questions, but sometimes (rarely) make edit to correct it.

Should I...

  • Never edit?
  • Always edit?
  • Edit in specific cases?

And is there an official policy on this point?


2 Answers 2


In general, I think that editing somebody else's question to substitute state for country or vice-versa would be horribly pedantic. In particular, because [contra to your assertion(s)], "country" is often interchangeable with "state". I've added some quotes from (full blown) dictionaries to the mainspace Q to show that. I think you were probably mislead by the learner's dictionaries entry for "country" that google takes its first hits from.


The terms may have different meaning, depending on the level of discussion. In colloquial language the two mean the same, although in a more formal discourse state usually refers to a political entity, country to a geographic one, nation culture and history, etc. These are often closely related, but not identical.

Fighting against the language as it is used by mullions of people, is an ungrateful and useless task. Introducing clear distinction between the terms where it matters for the debate, thus avoiding some typical debate fallacies and raising the quality of discussion in Politics SE is a different matter. This, I advise using discretion

Note that there are many terms whose colloquial use is different from the formal one - e.f., one of my pet subjects is socialism != social democracy.

Finally, I generally do not recommend editing questions or answers, unless it is a matter of grammar or obvious errors. It is better to make a suggestion for improvements in the comments section, and less the author judge themselves, whether it is relevant and how they exactly adopt it.

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