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

Language level

Beginner: A1
Pre-intermediate: A2

Soumis par Sherol le dim 13/09/2020 - 17:33

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Hello, teacher! Can you tell me: What's the diference between one, two, three thing/s and the one, the two, the three thing/s?

Hello Sherol,

The use of the definite article here is no different from its use in any other sentence. The definite article refers to identified examples. This could be because we have spoken of them before, because they are clear from the context or because they are unique.

For example:

One thing I know is that... [I know many things; this is one of them]

The one thing I know is that... [I know only one thing]

I have two things you need. [you need many things; I have two of them]

I have the two things you need. [you need two things and I have them]

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Soumis par Ravshan le lun 07/09/2020 - 17:36

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Hello The same mistake in grammar test 2 in third question of article 2. It is about the University of Nottingham

Soumis par Jonathan R le mar 08/09/2020 - 04:38

En réponse à par Ravshan

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Hi Ravshan,

Thanks for letting us know about the problems. 

___ Nile is the longest river in ___ Africa: "-" and "the" aren't right. It should be the other way round: The Nile is the longest river in Africa. "The" is used before the names of rivers but not before the names of continents.

The University of Nottingham: yes, this should be correct! I'm just wondering - did you capitalise the first letter (i.e. The, not the)? That might be the reason for the incorrect answer. If not, please let us know and we'll check why a wrong answer was shown.

Best wishes,

Jonathan

The LearnEnglish Team

Soumis par Ravshan le lun 07/09/2020 - 17:29

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Hello I guess there is a mistake on web site in first grammar test of Article 2. In the fourth question i put "-" and "the" ( before "Nile is the longest river in") but in both cases it was a mistake

Soumis par Lal le mar 25/08/2020 - 11:21

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Hello Sir The number of children in schools has risen in recent years. Is it wrong to say A number of children in schools have risen in recent years Please let me know the above sentence is right or wrong. Thank you. Regards Lal

Hello Lal,

The definite article (the) is needed here as you are describing a specific number.

A number of... has a similar meaning to some. It describes an unspecified number.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Hello Sir Thank you for your prompt reply. Please tell me why 'has risen' is used in the first sentence instead of 'have risen.' Thank you. Regards Lal

Hello Lal,

The subject of 'has risen' is the phrase 'the number of children in schools', which has 'the number' as its head. 'the number' is singular, and so the verb is also singular: 'has risen'.

All the best,

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Soumis par aniley le ven 21/08/2020 - 14:30

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Very easy this lesson . Books often have too much information

Soumis par hannahbeigi le ven 14/08/2020 - 16:36

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This grammar lesson is very useful. Thanks

Soumis par Rafaela1 le sam 08/08/2020 - 10:51

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I'm going to bed early because I'm under the weather because of the heat which is unbearable.... ;[

Soumis par Salum Hilali le ven 07/08/2020 - 15:49

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Thank you so much for an interesting lesson. Which articles to use when we talk about a company, an organization , leaders and other geographical features (national parks )? For example: President, Minister, CEO :Leaders United Nations(U.N),African Union,UEFA,CAF Ngorongoro Crater, Serengeti National Parks

Hello Salum Hilali,

With organisations we use either 'the' or no article. It depends on whether the name is perceived as a descriptive name or as a proper noun. For example:

Descriptive names: the United Nations, the European Union, the African Union, the International Monetary Fund, the Red Cross, the Red Crescent

Proper names: UEFA, CAF, Greenpeace, Medecin Sans Frontiers

Serengeti National Parks would be treated as a descriptive name, so would take 'the'.

Some institutions and places are treated as proper names when they are in acronym form but descriptive names when written in full. For example, we say CAF (no article) but the Confederation of African Football.

Ngorongoro Crater would probably be treated as a proper name, though it is really a question of convention rather than grammatical rule.

 

As far as people go, it really depends on the context. Without knowing this it's impossible to say.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Soumis par Lal le mer 05/08/2020 - 08:32

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Hello Sir Elephant is a herbivorous animal The elephant is a herbivorous animal. Please let me know that one can use the above mentioned with a definite article or without it. Thank you. Regards Lal

Hello Lal,

The first one is not correct, but the second is. Very often we use a plural noun ('Elephants are a herbivorous animal.'). You can see a few more examples in our Grammar reference if you're interested.

All the best,

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Soumis par bnd le lun 13/07/2020 - 16:52

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Is their any rule for omission of article 'the' before abbreviation like UK? Example: France and the UK are located on either side of the ,English Channel. Please reply .

Hello bnd,

We use the before abbreviations when we would use it before the full noun phrase. Thus, we say the United Kingdom and the United States, so we also say the UK and the US.

On the other hand, we usually do not use an article before UNIX because the full noun phrase (Uniplexed Information and Computing System) does not usually take an article.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Soumis par bnd le sam 11/07/2020 - 10:52

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France and _____UK are located on either side of ________English Channel. What will be the appropriate articles for the above mentioned sentence. Please reply .

Soumis par AliMohamed le sam 13/06/2020 - 10:15

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Dears, thanks for sharing such a useful information, but i got confused about some answers. in grammar test 1 I have added the before Nile and it was a wrong answer although in the explanation below mentioned with "the". the same in test 2 , I have added the before university of Nottingham but it was a wrong answer as well.

Soumis par Kirk le sam 13/06/2020 - 14:04

En réponse à par AliMohamed

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Hello AliMohamed

The word 'the' must be capitalized ('The') in Grammar test 1 number 4 and in Grammar test 2 number 3 -- sentences in English always begin with a capital letter.

All the best

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Soumis par shiler omer le mer 20/05/2020 - 04:41

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hello everyone 1st of all thanks for your amazing site . my friend is a doctor and he works in a hospital nearby,so relying on the rule here which says we use the with the places that we are just visitors in not patient,students,prisoners,or workers, there we have to say [[ he goes to hospital everyday ]] it sounds weird and wrong ,though. can I please get an answer.

Hello shiler omer,

The explanation does not talk about workers in these institutions.

We use the definite article when we work in an institution. Thus teachers go to the school, and doctors go to the hospital.

We don't use an article when we are a student (go to school), a prisoner (go to prison) or a patient (go to hospital), as the explanation says.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Soumis par SakshiJulka123 le ven 15/05/2020 - 06:17

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Hi Sir! "She believes in the beauty of the soul, not the body." Do we require 'the' before 'soul' as well as 'body'? Thanks. Sakshi

Soumis par Peter M. le ven 15/05/2020 - 07:17

En réponse à par SakshiJulka123

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Hello Sakshi,

You need to use the before soul here. If you do not, it sounds like you are talking about soul music - the music of James Brown and Otis Redding. Music styles (blues, jazz, soul, pop, rock etc) do not take articles.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Thank you for your clever explanation. Actually I believe in the beauty in soul! ღ˘◡˘ற♡.。oO

Soumis par Lia Paiva le dim 10/05/2020 - 14:36

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It was considered wrong to use the United Kingdom above? Why?

Hello Lia Paiva,

I think you've misunderstood the information on the page. It says that it is correct to use the definite article with countries with 'United' in their name:

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

As the information says, there are some other countries which take the definite article even though they do not have 'United' in their name. These are the exceptions referred to/

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Soumis par SakshiJulka123 le dim 10/05/2020 - 05:05

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Hi! Can I get some information on zero article here? Sakshi

Soumis par krollos le jeu 07/05/2020 - 16:38

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Hi there Why do we say "university of Notingham" without "the" and we can use "the" with universities with of in the title(like university of Tokyo)?

Soumis par Peter M. le ven 08/05/2020 - 06:55

En réponse à par krollos

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Hello krollos,

We do use 'the' before 'University of Nottingham'. I expect the task marked it wrong because your answer was not capitalised.

After you complete a task and click 'Finish' you have the option to choose 'Show answers' to see the correct answers to the task.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Soumis par misagh le mer 06/05/2020 - 15:01

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Hi there I've got a little problem with this question in test 2: Every Friday my grandad goes to ....prison to teach a maths class. Why should we use "the" in the blank? He goes there every week and prison is kind of a workplace for him. Isn't it?

Hello misagh

Yes, that's right. The idea is that your grandad is not a prisoner, but rather a teacher who visits the prison. 

All the best

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Soumis par H_L le mar 05/05/2020 - 19:10

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Hello, I was trying to apply the grammar I learned in common phrases and come up with sentences without "the", but I couldn't find one for hospital? Students go to school/Prisoners die in prison. Patients go to hospital/Patients are in hospital! Both of them sound wrong? When can we use hospital without an article? Can you give me an example, please? Thank you

Soumis par H_L le mar 05/05/2020 - 19:21

En réponse à par H_L

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Are these sentences correct? I went to the prison to visit my friend. My friend is a prisoner in prison. I went to school to learn English. My mom visited the school to ask about my level. I work in the hospital. (I don't know how to use hospital as singular and without an article)

Soumis par Lal le ven 01/05/2020 - 08:23

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Hello Sir Is it all right to use such as in this sentence e.g. At the super market we bought many things such as: sugar, milk powder, tea coffee Thank you. Regards Lal

Hello Lal

Yes, it is, though I'd change the punctuation to: 'many things such as sugar, milk powder, tea and coffee'.

All the best

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Soumis par Rafaela1 le mar 21/04/2020 - 13:12

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When to use articles is enigmatic for me! Assimilating into the English speaking community would be helpful!

Soumis par ann1047 le mar 21/04/2020 - 09:00

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Hello. Help me, please, to understand - why don't you use "the" with lakes, but use with seas, oceans and rivers? I mean, all of them are a places with a lot of water, so why "Lake Baikal", but "The Black sea"? Is it tradition or there is a reason for writing, that may helps to remember? Thank you)

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

Soumis par Victoria Krykova le sam 11/04/2020 - 14:18

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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

Soumis par Van le lun 06/04/2020 - 03:33

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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

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