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 (67 votes)

Submitted by krollos on Thu, 07/05/2020 - 16:38

Hi there Why do we say "university of Notingham" without "the" and we can use "the" with universities with of in the title(like university of Tokyo)?
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Submitted by Peter M. on Fri, 08/05/2020 - 06:55

In reply to by krollos


Hello krollos,

We do use 'the' before 'University of Nottingham'. I expect the task marked it wrong because your answer was not capitalised.

After you complete a task and click 'Finish' you have the option to choose 'Show answers' to see the correct answers to the task.



The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by misagh on Wed, 06/05/2020 - 15:01

Hi there I've got a little problem with this question in test 2: Every Friday my grandad goes to ....prison to teach a maths class. Why should we use "the" in the blank? He goes there every week and prison is kind of a workplace for him. Isn't it?
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Submitted by Kirk Moore on Thu, 07/05/2020 - 06:57

In reply to by misagh


Hello misagh

Yes, that's right. The idea is that your grandad is not a prisoner, but rather a teacher who visits the prison. 

All the best


The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by H_L on Tue, 05/05/2020 - 19:10

Hello, I was trying to apply the grammar I learned in common phrases and come up with sentences without "the", but I couldn't find one for hospital? Students go to school/Prisoners die in prison. Patients go to hospital/Patients are in hospital! Both of them sound wrong? When can we use hospital without an article? Can you give me an example, please? Thank you

Submitted by H_L on Tue, 05/05/2020 - 19:21

In reply to by H_L

Are these sentences correct? I went to the prison to visit my friend. My friend is a prisoner in prison. I went to school to learn English. My mom visited the school to ask about my level. I work in the hospital. (I don't know how to use hospital as singular and without an article)

Submitted by Lal on Fri, 01/05/2020 - 08:23

Hello Sir Is it all right to use such as in this sentence e.g. At the super market we bought many things such as: sugar, milk powder, tea coffee Thank you. Regards Lal
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Submitted by Kirk Moore on Fri, 01/05/2020 - 15:20

In reply to by Lal


Hello Lal

Yes, it is, though I'd change the punctuation to: 'many things such as sugar, milk powder, tea and coffee'.

All the best


The LearnEnglish Team

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Submitted by Rafaela1 on Tue, 21/04/2020 - 13:12

When to use articles is enigmatic for me! Assimilating into the English speaking community would be helpful!

Submitted by ann1047 on Tue, 21/04/2020 - 09:00

Hello. Help me, please, to understand - why don't you use "the" with lakes, but use with seas, oceans and rivers? I mean, all of them are a places with a lot of water, so why "Lake Baikal", but "The Black sea"? Is it tradition or there is a reason for writing, that may helps to remember? Thank you)