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: 4.4 (15 votes)
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Submitted by Saurabh Ajay K… on Tue, 16/03/2021 - 07:06

In reply to by Maahir

Maahir we're using "the" with Bahamas and Gambia

Submitted by Honey June on Thu, 14/01/2021 - 05:32

I've learned that we can use "the" when we say thing that is only one all over the world.There is nothing the same with this word.How to say that. Is it particular?

Hello Honey June,

I'm responding to this comment and also your other one about Grammar test 1 question 3.

We don't usually use 'the' in the phrase 'at university', unless we are referring to a specific university that we've already mentioned. In this case, the sentence is about someone's plans: after she finishes school, she wants to go to university. It could be any university, and so no 'the' is used.

But if we had just been talking about a specific university -- for example, the university in our city -- then we could say 'the university' here. Does that make sense?

It's true that we often use 'the' to refer to unique things: 'the Taj Mahal', 'the Eiffel Tower', or 'the great pyramids', etc. You can read more about this and other uses of 'the' on our definite article page.

I'm afraid I don't completely understand your last question. If the page I have linked to doesn't answer your question, please ask us again in another way.

All the best,


The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Honey June on Thu, 14/01/2021 - 05:27

Hello, I am a little get confused about No3 in Grammar test 1.Why doesn't it need to add "the" at university?Could u explain me more clearly?

Submitted by khaingkhaingwin on Wed, 06/01/2021 - 15:47

I don't understand No.3 in garmmar test 2----University of Nottinghom. Why doesn't put article "the".Please explain.

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.
Profile picture for user Jonathan R

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