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)

Hello khaingkhaingwin,

The correct answer is 'The University of Nottingham is in the United Kingdom'. It's not correct to put 'the' as the first word, since the first words of sentences are always capitalised.

Does that make sense? By the way, after you press the Check Answers button, a Show Answers button appears. You can see the corrections this way.

Hope this helps.

All the best,


The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by LUIZ ANTONIO on Sun, 06/12/2020 - 20:01

Hi Teacher Could you please explain to me which are the correct form in questions 4 and 5 in section Article 2? In the explanation, the "THE" get to used for Seas and oceans, Below you find the question. 4. the Nile is the longest river in Africa. It flows north from the Lake Victoria to the Mediterranean Sea.
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Submitted by Peter M. on Mon, 07/12/2020 - 07:48

In reply to by LUIZ ANTONIO



The correct forms are as follows:

The Nile is the longest river in - Africa. It flows north from - Lake Victoria to the Mediterranean Sea.

We use 'the' for seas and oceans ('the Mediterranean Sea') and for rivers ('The Nile'), but we use no article for the names of continents ('- Africa') and lakes ('- Lake Victoria').

You can see the correct answers to any exercise once you have entered your answers and clicked 'Finish'.



The LearnEnglish Team

Hi, in the first grammar test you should put in fourth example "Nile" without the but in grammar explanation, it is mentioned that "the" is used with oceans, rivers and mountains. Question: is it an error from british council team or is there another explanation to that. thank you.
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Submitted by Jonathan R on Sat, 02/01/2021 - 11:31

In reply to by walimM


Hi walimM,

Actually, in that question you should put in The Nile. I've just checked the exercise, and it marks The as correct for me. Did it give you an error?


The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Yigitcan on Fri, 20/11/2020 - 14:44

Hi team I have two question. 1-It's very hot today and Ben has turned on __ fan to get some fresh air.(right answer is the fan but I have been thinking no article. Why we use '' the''? 2-Ted is listening to __ news on __radio. He looks worried.(Blanks are' '' the' '.Are they a rule?)
Profile picture for user Peter M.

Submitted by Peter M. on Mon, 23/11/2020 - 07:40

In reply to by Yigitcan


Hi Yigitcan,

In your first example, we use 'the' because the meaning is that there is one fan available to cool him down. We say 'the' in similar situations even if there are multiple items. For example, we say 'turn on the light' in a room even if there are several lights to choose from. The assumption is that we mean the main light if there is nothing in the context to make another meaning clear.

In your second example, we always say 'the news'. You can say 'a news programme' but always 'the news'. It is a singular noun, even though it ends with an 's'.

We use 'the' with several channels of communication: 'on the radio', 'on the phone', 'on the Internet'. This is not a consistent rule, however, as we usually say 'on television', 'in a telegram', 'in a text', amongst others. Articles are governed by both rules and convention, so with forms like these there is often an arbitrary component which means they must simply be memorised.



The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Nhi Do on Thu, 19/11/2020 - 08:35

Hello, Could you explain to me the different between two sentences: I go to school I go to the school Thank you. ND
Profile picture for user Kirk Moore

Submitted by Kirk Moore on Fri, 20/11/2020 - 06:42

In reply to by Nhi Do


Hello Nhi Do,

This is explained in the Common phrases section on this page. If you are someone who regularly goes to school -- for example, a student who spends their day at school -- then you would typically say 'to school'. In general, if a person says 'I go to school', it means they are a student.

If you don't regularly spend your day at school, then 'to the school' would typically be the correct form to use. For example, if you are a parent of a student and are going to speak with your child's teacher at the school, you would typically say 'I'm going to the school'.

Does that make sense?

All the best,


The LearnEnglish Team