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 (72 votes)

Submitted by Lal on Wed, 23/09/2020 - 06:24

Hello Sir Is it all right to say that there are 12 tenses in English language? Please let me know. If it is wrong then how many tenses? Thank you. Regards Lal

Hello Lal,

This really depends on your definition of what a tense is. In modern grammar, a tense is generally defined as a change in the form of the verb which denotes the time of the action described. This is different from aspect (perfective and/or continuous), mood (indicative, subjunctive or imperative) and voice (passive or active).

If this definition is used, then we can say that English has two tenses: past and present. Everything else is some combination of aspect, mood and voice with those two tenses. There is no future tense in English, but rather a range of ways to talk about future time, including modal verbs like might, should, may, will etc.



The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Sherol on Sun, 13/09/2020 - 17:33

Hello, teacher! Can you tell me: What's the diference between one, two, three thing/s and the one, the two, the three thing/s?

Hello Sherol,

The use of the definite article here is no different from its use in any other sentence. The definite article refers to identified examples. This could be because we have spoken of them before, because they are clear from the context or because they are unique.

For example:

One thing I know is that... [I know many things; this is one of them]

The one thing I know is that... [I know only one thing]

I have two things you need. [you need many things; I have two of them]

I have the two things you need. [you need two things and I have them]



The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Ravshan on Mon, 07/09/2020 - 17:36

Hello The same mistake in grammar test 2 in third question of article 2. It is about the University of Nottingham
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Submitted by Jonathan R on Tue, 08/09/2020 - 04:38

In reply to by Ravshan


Hi Ravshan,

Thanks for letting us know about the problems. 

___ Nile is the longest river in ___ Africa: "-" and "the" aren't right. It should be the other way round: The Nile is the longest river in Africa. "The" is used before the names of rivers but not before the names of continents.

The University of Nottingham: yes, this should be correct! I'm just wondering - did you capitalise the first letter (i.e. The, not the)? That might be the reason for the incorrect answer. If not, please let us know and we'll check why a wrong answer was shown.

Best wishes,


The LearnEnglish Team

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