Location or Place?

Sometimes people become confused between location and place. What is a location and what is a place, and why are they not the same? Well in everyday language they probably are the same, but in geographical terms they are very different. Location tells you where something is, place tells you what it is like.


This is divided into 2 parts:

Specific locationSpecific location

General Location

Specific location is shown by an address. The address can be any type of address that gives an exact position. It is sometimes called absolute location
Here are some examples:
A Street Address:
1, Silly Street, Anywhere Town, Nowhere Place
A Map Address:
15o20′ North, 20o15′ West

Both of these examples well tell you exactly where a place is.

General location is shown by saying where something is in relation to somewhere or something else. It is also known as relative location.
Here are some examples:
ten minutes away by train
in front of the bank

With these two examples you can only find what you want if you know from where you are starting. It’s useful, though, for describing things. If I just told you that New York was located at 40o North, 73o West, you probably couldn’t picture that in your head. If I told you that it was in the North-Eastern United States, you could probably imagine it much better.


The place is a description of what the place is like, rather than where it is (location). It is a description of what makes that place different to others. If I was trying to tell you about the bedrooms in a house, and I wanted to explain to you exactly which one I meant, I could say, “the one with two beds and one window”. If the other rooms had only one bed each, or two windows, then you could easily tell which room I meant.

This is divided into 2 parts:

Physical DifferencesPhysical Differences

Human Differences

Physical differences, or characteristics, include things that occur naturally, such as mountains, rivers, type of soil, wildlife, climate etc.

I might say that a place is flat with rich soil and many rivers. I’m still being vague, but already you can see a picture of it in your head, and maybe even begin to imagine what the land is used for.

Human differences, or characteristics, are things that have changed due to people, such as roads and buildings, how people live and their traditions.

This is where you can really go to town in your description. You can discuss the cities, lifestyle, culture and all sorts of other interesting facts that make the place you are talking about different and special.


For a description of each of the five themes, visit these links:

Describing Places: The Five Themes of Geography on this site.

Five Times Five
The Five Themes of Geography
The Five Themes of Geography

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