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 (71 votes)

Submitted by mmite79 on Wed, 22/02/2023 - 18:52


I think the clue is always practice and practice and practice. Thanks a lot for the explanation. It was really helpful.

Submitted by uttambro on Mon, 13/02/2023 - 18:17


It was even more useful than the previous one.
Signing off:)

Submitted by olessya.diyunova on Wed, 08/02/2023 - 23:15


Why in the grammar test 2 - "___ University of Nottingham is in the United Kingdom" University of Nottingham without "the"

However in the rules -Universities with of in the title also have the:
the University of Cape Town, the University of Delhi, the University of Tokyo

Hi olessya.diyunova,

The correct answer is 'The' but note that for it to be accepted you need to use a capital letter - 'the' is wrong; 'The' is correct.

After checking your answers you can alway click 'Show answers' to see the key if you're not sure what the correct answer is.



The LearnEnglish Team

Please , can you explain to me why did we need to use "the" for bahamas in grammar test 2 ?
Thank you so much 🙏

Hello imane_ben,

We also use 'the' with groups of islands such as 'The Bahamas', 'The Philippines', 'The Andaman Islands', etc. In general, whenever there's the idea of plurality -- when there's more than one island, it's a plural concept, or when the name of a nation has the word 'united', it suggests multiple states inside it -- we use 'the'.

All the best,
LearnEnglish team

Submitted by disconzi on Tue, 06/12/2022 - 01:02


Hello Team,

I need some clarification on the following situation. Which one is correct and why?
A University or An University.
I was taught the first one is correct but I´m pretty sure I have already heard the second one.

Thanks in advance.


Hello disconzi,

The correct answer is 'a university'.

The key is to recognise the sound which begins the word, not the letter. The word 'university' begins with the letter 'u' but the sound /j/ as in the words 'yes', 'yellow' and 'yesterday'. Other words like university include useful, usual, universe, united, Uruguayan and UFO.

When the sound is /u/ (short) or /u:/ (long) we use 'an': umbrella, unusual, unknown and ultimate.



The LearnEnglish Team