Articles: 'the' or no article

Articles: 'the' or no article

Do you know when you need to use the in common phrases and place names? Test what you know with interactive exercises and read the explanation to help you.

Look at these examples to see when the is and isn't used.

I'm going to bed.
I walk to work.
My children are going to start school.
I visited the school yesterday.
Mount Everest is in the Himalayas.

Try this exercise to test your grammar.

Grammar test 1

Articles 2: Grammar test 1

Grammar explanation

Here are some ways we use articles in common phrases and place names.

Common phrases

We don't usually use an article in expressions with bed, work and home.

go to bed / be in bed
go to work / be at work / start work / finish work
go home / be at home / get home / stay at home

We also don't normally use an article in expressions with school, university, prison and hospital.

start school / go to school / be at school
go to university / be at university
be sent to prison / go to prison / be in prison
go to hospital / be in hospital

But we usually use the if someone is just visiting the place, and not there as a student/prisoner/patient, etc.

My son has started school now. I went to the school to meet his teacher.
I went to the prison a lot when I was a social worker.
I'm at the hospital. My sister has just had a baby.

Place names

We don't normally use an article for continents, most countries, cities, towns, lakes, mountains or universities. So, we say:

Africa, Asia, Europe
India, Ghana, Peru, Denmark
Addis Ababa, Hanoi, New York, Moscow
Lake Victoria, Lake Superior, Lake Tanganyika
Mount Everest, Mount Kilimanjaro, Mount Elbrus
Cardiff University, Harvard University, Manchester University

Some countries are different. Country names with United have the. There are other countries which are exceptions too. So, we say:

the United Arab Emirates, the United Kingdom, the United States of America
the Bahamas, the Gambia

Seas and oceans, mountain ranges and rivers have the:

the Atlantic, the Pacific, the Mediterranean
the Andes, the Himalayas, the Alps
the Nile, the Amazon, the Yangtze

Universities with of in the title also have the:

the University of Cape Town, the University of Delhi, the University of Tokyo

Do this exercise to test your grammar again.

Grammar test 2

Articles 2: Grammar test 2

Average: 4.1 (71 votes)

Submitted by 8130445980 on Wed, 01/04/2020 - 16:11

Hii sir, my doubts is related to questions tag I'll change (I was rich.) In question tag.. please let me know.. thank you.

Hello 8130445980

'wasn't I?' is the question tag for that statement -- please see the explanation on our Question tags page.

By the way, if your username is a telephone number, you should change it to something else. Our House rules prohibit the sharing of personal information.

All the best


The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by saja1987 on Mon, 23/03/2020 - 12:30

Hello You have said in the explanation that Universities with of in the title also have the: the University of Cape Town So why is it wrong to say in test No. 2 (Incorrect) the University of Nottingham ?????? Also, you have said that we should say the Nile, and in test no.1, it gave me incorrect answer to say the Nile
Profile picture for user Kirk Moore

Submitted by Kirk Moore on Mon, 23/03/2020 - 15:52

In reply to by saja1987


Hello saja1987

For Grammar test 2 sentence 3, you have to capitalise 'The' -- in other words, 'the' is not correct, but 'The' is. The first letter of sentences is capitalised in English. The same is true for Grammar test 1 sentence 4: 'The' is correct, but not 'the'.

All the best


The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Maite9220 on Mon, 30/03/2020 - 19:14

In reply to by saja1987

Hi! The test has marked them as a mistake because they are the beginnig of a sentence so they start in capital letters. I hope it helps :)

Hello Cathy,

You can actually use either the TV or just TV in these contexts. It's something which has developed over time so it's more the result of convention and habit that any grammar rule. You just need to remember, and not just with TV:

watch something on TV / the TV

listen to the radio (not just radio)

read on the Internet (not just Internet)



The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Greta on Tue, 25/02/2020 - 14:07

Hello, Why in the sentence Well, we'd just come back from town, hadn't we, Doreen "the" is missing before town?
Profile picture for user Peter M.

Submitted by Peter M. on Wed, 26/02/2020 - 07:32

In reply to by Greta


Hello Greta,

It's an unusual use, isn't it? People often use this with the same meaning  as come back from the town. In other words, the speaker and the listener both know which town is referenced - probably, the nearest local town.

Unfortunately, the pattern is not consistent with other phrases. We do not use country in the same way, but rather talk about come back from the country. The same is true of other geographical terms: from the mountains, from the forest, from the seaside, from the city, from the village, from the lake etc.



The LearnEnglish Team

Thank you very much, Peter! Your comment is useful for me.