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 Ravshan on Mon, 07/09/2020 - 17:29

Hello I guess there is a mistake on web site in first grammar test of Article 2. In the fourth question i put "-" and "the" ( before "Nile is the longest river in") but in both cases it was a mistake

Submitted by Lal on Tue, 25/08/2020 - 11:21

Hello Sir The number of children in schools has risen in recent years. Is it wrong to say A number of children in schools have risen in recent years Please let me know the above sentence is right or wrong. Thank you. Regards Lal

Hello Lal,

The definite article (the) is needed here as you are describing a specific number.

A number of... has a similar meaning to some. It describes an unspecified number.



The LearnEnglish Team

Hello Sir Thank you for your prompt reply. Please tell me why 'has risen' is used in the first sentence instead of 'have risen.' Thank you. Regards Lal
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Submitted by Kirk Moore on Tue, 01/09/2020 - 14:07

In reply to by Lal


Hello Lal,

The subject of 'has risen' is the phrase 'the number of children in schools', which has 'the number' as its head. 'the number' is singular, and so the verb is also singular: 'has risen'.

All the best,


The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by hannahbeigi on Fri, 14/08/2020 - 16:36

This grammar lesson is very useful. Thanks
Profile picture for user Rafaela1

Submitted by Rafaela1 on Sat, 08/08/2020 - 10:51

I'm going to bed early because I'm under the weather because of the heat which is unbearable.... ;[
Profile picture for user Salum Hilali

Submitted by Salum Hilali on Fri, 07/08/2020 - 15:49

Thank you so much for an interesting lesson. Which articles to use when we talk about a company, an organization , leaders and other geographical features (national parks )? For example: President, Minister, CEO :Leaders United Nations(U.N),African Union,UEFA,CAF Ngorongoro Crater, Serengeti National Parks

Hello Salum Hilali,

With organisations we use either 'the' or no article. It depends on whether the name is perceived as a descriptive name or as a proper noun. For example:

Descriptive names: the United Nations, the European Union, the African Union, the International Monetary Fund, the Red Cross, the Red Crescent

Proper names: UEFA, CAF, Greenpeace, Medecin Sans Frontiers

Serengeti National Parks would be treated as a descriptive name, so would take 'the'.

Some institutions and places are treated as proper names when they are in acronym form but descriptive names when written in full. For example, we say CAF (no article) but the Confederation of African Football.

Ngorongoro Crater would probably be treated as a proper name, though it is really a question of convention rather than grammatical rule.


As far as people go, it really depends on the context. Without knowing this it's impossible to say.



The LearnEnglish Team