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Do you know when you need to use the in common phrases and place names?

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

Nivel de idioma

Beginner: A1
Pre-intermediate: A2

Comments

Hello ann1047

Yes, it seems inconsistent, doesn't it? I'm afraid this is just the way that people have come to speak English -- there is no other 'logical' rule than this.

All the best

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Please, help me with this rule:
"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."

In this case if we are talking about teacher who goes to the school should we use the? He/she is neither a student and a normal visiter.

Hello Victoria Krykova

Since the sentence says 'my son', we can assume that the speaker is the mother or father of the boy. The parent didn't go there for lessons (as a student), but rather for a meeting with the teacher. Parents in many schools meet their children's teachers once or twice a year to hear more about how they are doing in school.

Does that make sense?

All the best

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Hello Victoria

I'm sorry that was confusing. Normally, we'd say a teacher goes to 'the school' to work, not 'to school' to work. If a teachers goes 'to school', normally that'd mean they are taking classes as a student.

The same would be true of social workers and wardens -- they go to 'the prison', unless they've committed a crime and are serving a sentence there.

I'm going to edit my answer above so that it's clearer in case other people read it in the future. Sorry for the confusion!

All the best

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Dear teachers,
I wanna ask which to use in this situation, "the" or nothing:
"... Pacific is the world's largest ocean."
Thank you very much.

Hello Van

As is explained above, we use 'the' before oceans. 'The Pacific is the world's largest ocean' is correct and 'Pacific is the world's largest ocean' is not.

All the best

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

It's helpful.

Hii sir, my doubts is related to questions tag topic..how I'll change (I was rich.) In question tag.. please let me know.. thank you.

Hello 8130445980

'wasn't I?' is the question tag for that statement -- please see the explanation on our Question tags page.

By the way, if your username is a telephone number, you should change it to something else. Our House rules prohibit the sharing of personal information.

All the best

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Hello

You have said in the explanation that

Universities with of in the title also have the:

the University of Cape Town

So why is it wrong to say in test No. 2

(Incorrect) the University of Nottingham ??????

Also, you have said that we should say the Nile, and in test no.1, it gave me incorrect answer to say the Nile

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