According to political scholars, a sovereign nation is a region in which one legal entity - of necessity being the government of that country - has the exclusive monopoly on the legitimate use of violence. That is, if you're in X country and you don't work for X government, you're not allowed to touch anyone other than to defend yourself or the laws created by X government. The "nation" means the people of that country; the "state" means its government. The "nation state" can be used interchangeably with the word "country" to describe the combination of the two that means a cartographer knows it's time to draw a line on the map and write in a name.
Some countries are divided into "states," which is a little confusing since a "state" can also just be a country itself. However, as we've learned, since a state can just mean a jurisdiction, it's a useful distinction to have in hand. A state within a country means not just a historical county or region, but an area with a certain level of autonomy. Again, it means a cartographer's going to have to reach for his or her pen.
Still, you don't always need to know WHAT they are to know WHERE they are and HOW they got there, do you? So whether all this is old news or a total surprise to you, you could still ace this country and state border quiz. Let's get started!