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Basic Geography: What's a Place?

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Part 1: Defining a Place

One of the most basic things geographers talk about is the idea of place.

What is a place? How do you define it?

A place can be labeled in several different ways.

First of all, a place is where people live. Places like this include houses and apartment buildings, cities and towns, countries and continents. Each level is a larger collection of places. Continents have countries. Countries have cities and towns. Cities and towns have houses and apartment buildings. When you are talking with someone who doesn't live where you live, you might say, "I live in a yellow house" or "I live in Beijing." When you meet someone who lives far away, she might say, "I live in Egypt" or "I live in Africa." The yellow house, Beijing, Egypt, and Africa are all places because they are where people live.

They are also places because they are where things are. Beijing is where the Chinese capital is. Egypt is where the Pyramids are. Africa is where Egypt is.

In the same way, a park is a place where trees and ducks are and a market is where food is. You could say that a fire station is a place where the fire engines are. You could also say that a fire station is a place where firefighters work.

So far, we have defined a place as where things are or where people live or work. Going back to our park example, we could say that a park is a place where people are, too. These people are not working (unless they are working in the park). They are enjoying some time away from work. They might even be feeding ducks. So, a place can be somewhere that people aren't living or working but just are.

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