Boats and countries

Two questions: 1) The pronouns she/her are used to refer to boats, cars (one’s own) and countries. Which ones? Scotland, England, Wales? Canada? 2)  Does “in the night” mean during the night and what’s the difference between in the night and at night? Thanks Carla 

1) There is a tradition in English-speaking countries of referring to ships as “she” or “her” but not everyone respects it, as it is now considered a bit old-fashioned. As for cars, you may hear a particularly expensive vehicle being described as “She’s a real beauty!” but most cars are referred to as “it.” The use of the feminine pronoun is almost a form of affection. As for individual countries, this is difficult. These days people tend to avoid using pronouns. Traditionally, the feminine form was used (“America and her allies”) but nowadays “America and its allies” is probably more common. Both are fine but “America and his allies” would sound strange. Seeing as most mother-tongue speakers aren’t entirely sure about this, you needn’t worry about getting it wrong. There are far more important mistakes in English!

2) “At night” tends to refer to nights in general: “I don’t sleep very well at night.” You can also say “In the night” but, when referring to nights in general, it is better to say “at night” (“in the night” is often heard in songs, though). When referring to specific nights, we tend to say “last night,” “tonight,” “tomorrow night,” “Thursday night” etc.

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