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 Sokhom on Tue, 31/08/2021 - 06:39

In reply to by Jonathan R

Thank you very much, sir. Your explanation is very clear and it helps me a lot. :)

Submitted by Sokhom on Sun, 28/11/2021 - 08:49

In reply to by Jonathan R


Hello, Sir!
I read a book (Vocabulary in Use), and encountered a sentence 1 (in the book). I added the articles "a" and "-s" to the word "bird" in order to distinguish the meanings. This is what I get:
1. There are approximately 20 varieties of bird in this species. ("bird" in general which is in one species)
2. There are approximately 20 varieties of a bird in this species. ("a bird" in particular which is in one species (i.e. a parrot in which there are 20 kinds of it)
3. There are approximately 20 varieties of birds in this species.
a. ("birds" in general which is in one species) like the meaning in the sentence 1
b. ("birds" in specific (i.e. a parrot in which there are 10 types if it and a chicken in which there are 10 kinds of it)
I was wondering if I'm right, especially in the sentence 3. Could you please tell me if "bird" (in 1) and " birds" (in 3.a) refer to birds in generaI?
Your explanation is a great help for me.
Best Wishes!

Hello Sokhom, I'm afraid I don't know enough about what exactly a variety of bird means here to be able to answer your question with confidence. Is it possible for different varieties to be the same species? Or are they considered sub-species? Perhaps sentence 3 could be correct if so, but without understanding this better I couldn't say. Hope this helps. All the best, Kirk The LearnEnglish Team

Thank you very much, Sir!
I wanted to know if I'm right:
1. Scientists have recently discovered two new species of plant.
+ "plant" (in general): it may be flowers, bamboos, beans, etc. I think it must be 2 new species of flowers or 2 new species of beans, but it cannot be one new species of flower and one new species of bean; that's is, it must be two of a kind.
2. Scientists have recently discovered two new species of a plant.
+ "a plant" (in specific) refers to two new species of one particular plant (i.e. 2 new varieties of a rose: Shrub roses and Polyantha roses). I think in here we talk only about flowers, but not bamboos, beans, etc.
3. Scientists have recently discovered 2 species of plants.
+ "plants" (in general): it may be two new kinds of flowers, 2 new kinds of beans, or one new kind of flower and one new kind of bean.
I'm still not sure about "2 new species of plant" and " 2 new species of plants" because they (plant & plants) can refer to plants in general.
Thank you for your precious time.
Best Wishes!

Hello Sokhom,

Yes, you're right about these, though I'm not sure the difference you see between 1 and 3 is really there. Both of them speak of two plants that are considered new species, but the singular or plural doesn't clearly indicate whether they're of the same group of plants or not.

Well done!

All the best,
The LearnEnglish Team

Your responses are really a big help for me, Sir! :)
1.Scientists have recently discovered two new species of plant.
2. Scientists have recently discovered two new species of plants.
I really wanted to know if the two sentences are exactly the same in meaning.
I really appreciate it!
Best Wishes!

Hi Sokhom,

As Kirk mentioned, both sentences could mean a single plant or more than one plant, so yes, they have the same meaning in that sense. So, as you can see, their meanings overlap a lot.

For your question about whether they have EXACTLY the same meaning, that's more difficult to say. I think it's important to remember that in real life, sentences are said or written in a context (even though for learning, we often study the sentence by itself). The context is important for interpreting the exact meaning. So, part of the meaning comes from our interpretation of the sentence in its context, and it cannot be understood by looking at the sentence alone. In summary, the exact meaning of these two sentences may be the same or different (i.e. refer to one plant or many) - depending on the contexts in which they are used.

I hope that helps :)

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Andrew22 on Tue, 27/04/2021 - 01:25

hello, I used "the" with university of Nottingham in grammar test 2 but it was wrong. Could anyone explain why I was wrong? Please
Profile picture for user Jonathan R

Submitted by Jonathan R on Tue, 27/04/2021 - 03:46

In reply to by Andrew22


Hi Andrew22,

It's the right word, but it needs a capital 'T' as it's the first word in the sentence :)


The LearnEnglish Team