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 Lal on Wed, 05/08/2020 - 08:32

Hello Sir Elephant is a herbivorous animal The elephant is a herbivorous animal. Please let me know that one can use the above mentioned with a definite article or without it. Thank you. Regards Lal
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Submitted by Kirk Moore on Wed, 05/08/2020 - 14:59

In reply to by Lal


Hello Lal,

The first one is not correct, but the second is. Very often we use a plural noun ('Elephants are a herbivorous animal.'). You can see a few more examples in our Grammar reference if you're interested.

All the best,


The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by bnd on Mon, 13/07/2020 - 16:52

Is their any rule for omission of article 'the' before abbreviation like UK? Example: France and the UK are located on either side of the ,English Channel. Please reply .

Hello bnd,

We use the before abbreviations when we would use it before the full noun phrase. Thus, we say the United Kingdom and the United States, so we also say the UK and the US.

On the other hand, we usually do not use an article before UNIX because the full noun phrase (Uniplexed Information and Computing System) does not usually take an article.



The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by bnd on Sat, 11/07/2020 - 10:52

France and _____UK are located on either side of ________English Channel. What will be the appropriate articles for the above mentioned sentence. Please reply .
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Submitted by musa1tt on Thu, 18/06/2020 - 08:16

Thanks a lot that was useful

Submitted by AliMohamed on Sat, 13/06/2020 - 10:15

Dears, thanks for sharing such a useful information, but i got confused about some answers. in grammar test 1 I have added the before Nile and it was a wrong answer although in the explanation below mentioned with "the". the same in test 2 , I have added the before university of Nottingham but it was a wrong answer as well.
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Submitted by Kirk Moore on Sat, 13/06/2020 - 14:04

In reply to by AliMohamed


Hello AliMohamed

The word 'the' must be capitalized ('The') in Grammar test 1 number 4 and in Grammar test 2 number 3 -- sentences in English always begin with a capital letter.

All the best


The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Dilnoza Sulaymonova on Fri, 12/06/2020 - 09:39

Thank you for explanation