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 Boogeyman on Tue, 05/09/2023 - 14:19

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It doesn't seem to be possible that a new route from Ukraine ports in terms of both financial expense and Russian counterparts.

Submitted by Aona on Mon, 08/05/2023 - 20:19

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Hello,
Please let me know which sentence is correct and why:

We went for a long walk along the Fifth Avenue.
Or
We went for a long walk along Fifth Avenue.

Thank you.

P. S. I know that we should use "the" article in front of ordinal numbers but somehow this Fifth Avenue sentence confused me.

Hi Aona,

If "Fifth Avenue" is the name of a street/road, then it should not have "the". For example, there is a famous road in New York called Fifth Avenue. 

If "fifth avenue" is a description, then it should have "the" (e.g. We went for a long walk along the fifth avenue after the train station).

I hope that helps.

Jonathan

LearnEnglish team

Thank you very much!

I apologize for being confused, but please help me with this one (also, articles- a very confusingmatter for me):

I went to prison to visit my husband.

Or

I went to the prison to visit my husband.

Are both of these correct or just the second one and why?

Thank you soooo much.

Hello Aona,

Yes, using articles correctly takes practice and patience!

Assuming that you are not a prisoner, you should use the second sentence.

As the explanation under Common phrases above says, we normally use 'the' when we are just visiting a place like a prison or school. If we are someone who regularly goes or lives there (for example, a student or teacher in a school or a prisoner or prison guard in a prison), then we typically don't use 'the'.

All the best,
Kirk
LearnEnglish team

Hello,
Please let me know why the correct answer of fourth question in test 2 is every Friday my grandad goes to the prison to teach a maths class. Isn't it a regular action? Why use the? Is there any other point? Sorry, I'm confused.

Hi NOTABLE,

Yes, it is a regular action, but in the context of a prison, "go to prison" is what a prisoner does (= stay inside a prison to serve a prison sentence).

For the grandad, who just goes there to teach a class but does not stay there permanently, "go to the prison" is the better option.

Jonathan

LearnEnglish team

the second is correct , if you belong to here , you don't use " The" . opposite , the situation is that " I went to .... prison to visit my husband" you just go to the prison to visit my husband, you don't belong to here , so the answer is that you have to use " the" in the situation

Submitted by Tahtooha on Fri, 14/04/2023 - 14:49

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Thank you, That's a clear explanation.