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 ShetuYogme on Tue, 21/05/2024 - 08:52


LearnEnglish team,

We generally say "the United Nations", "the European Union", and "the Republic of India". Does it mean we should use "the" with unions, councils, organisations and political parties? Should we write "the British Broadcasting Corporation", "the British Council of English", "the All India Radio" or should we skip using "the"?

But I know that "All India Radio" is used without "the". Why so?

Now coming to political parties, should I say "the Conservative Party", "the Labour Party"; 
"the Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP)", "the Indian National Congress", "the Shivsena" (these are the Indian political parties) or should I not use "the" with political parties?

Thank you.

Hi ShetuYogme,

"The" is normally used when the name includes a common noun (e.g. union, republic, corporation, party) together with a more specific description. So, yes - it should be "the BBC", "the British Council", and "the Conservative Party". 

I don't know about "Shivsena", since I can't see a common noun in its name.

About "All India Radio", this is probably because "radio" is uncountable (in the meaning of the system of radio broadcasting, rather than an individual radio unit).

May I also add, there are likely to be examples that do not conform to these rules. That is because these are not really rules, but patterns. Rules are predetermined, whereas the names that become commonly used for companies, organisations, parties and so on are also influenced by how people speak and write in real-life discourse, which is partly unpredictable. "UNESCO", for example, is normally said and written without "the", even though the "O" in its name is short for "organisation".


LearnEnglish team

Submitted by Kikilis on Wed, 28/02/2024 - 20:21


Should we write "the Kaunas university of technology" or could we skip the artivle?

Hello Kikilis,

The most important general rule for articles and the names of universities is to use 'the' when the name of the institution includes the word 'of'. And when the name of the institution has a proper noun before the word 'university', normally 'the' is not used.

So I think one could go either way with Kaunas, but I think it's safe to assume that how the university refers to itself is correct, i.e. 'Kaunas University of Technology'. Massachusetts Institute of Technology does the same.

Best wishes,
LearnEnglish team

Submitted by Khangvo2812 on Wed, 14/02/2024 - 06:27


Can I say the sentence below without including the article a?
I would need to attend medical school if I wanted to become a nutritionist.

Hello Khangvo2812,

It would not be correct to say 'I wanted to become nutritionist'. We use 'a' in sentences such as these, that is, when we're saying what our or another person's profession is.

All the best,
LearnEnglish team

Submitted by Sefika on Wed, 27/12/2023 - 17:37


What is the difference between the following two phrases?
"(English) physicist Isaac Newton" vs. "the (English) physicist Isaac Newton"
What I would like to know, in particular, is whether the "physicist" in the former is a title or not, because the "p" is not capitalized. (Given that titles used before proper nouns are capitalized, can the lowercase "physicist" still be used as Newton's job title?)

Thank you for your help in advance.

Hello Sefika,

'...the physicist Isaac Newton' has a similar meaning to the physicist (who is called) Isaac Newton. 'The' is used because we are talking about a physicist and the name 'Isaac Newton' identifies which physicist we are talking about.

...physicist Isaac Newton has a similar meaning to Isaac Newton, who is a physicist. Here we are focused on the name (hence no article) and are adding some information about the person by mentioning their occupation.


As to whether 'physicist' should be capitalised, I would say no. This is because 'physicist' is a profession like soldier or cook, but is not a job title like Captain or Head Chef.


The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Nguyentiep on Wed, 27/12/2023 - 08:03


We don't usually use an article in expressions with bed/work/home
We also don't normally use an article in expressions with school/prison/university/hospital
But we use "the" if someone just visiting the place and not there as a student/prisoner/patient.
Country names with "United" have "the"
With universities name "of" also have "the"
Oceans, seas, rivers and mountains have "the"