Articles 2

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

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Average: 5 (1 vote)

Submitted by Sokhom on Wed, 25/08/2021 - 03:06

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Hello, Sir! I was wondering why 'bird' in the sentence (from Longman dictionary) below has no article: E.g. There are over 40 species of bird living on the island. I asked about this once but I haven't got any reply. I know you are very busy. Please help me if you are available. Thank you in advance! Best Wishes

Hi Sokhom,

Do you mean this question about the phrase species of plant? There's a reply to your message from Kirk that I hope will answer your question, but feel free to ask here if anything's unclear. :)

Jonathan

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Sokhom on Sun, 29/08/2021 - 12:40

In reply to by Jonathan R

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Thank you very much, sir! I was wondering if I the sentences below are correct: 1. Scientists have recently discovered a new species of a plant. 2. Scientists have recently discovered a new species of plant. 'plant' has no article. Is it because of the phrase 'a species of'? I think 'a species of + noun has the form, 'noun + of + noun'. So, if the second noun is a singular, it should be preceeded by the article, 'a'. I'm so sorry for asking a similiar question .Your explanation is really a big help for me. Best Wishes!

Hi Sokhom,

Yes, both sentences are correct. Their meanings are slightly different: in 1, the use of the article shows that the speaker/writer is referring to a new species of one particular plant (e.g., a sunflower), although he/she doesn't specify which one in this sentence. In 2, it could be any type of plant.

That's right, sentence 2 has no article before 'a' because it follows 'a species of'. Other phrases like this include a type of / a kind of / a sort of / a form of - all introduce examples in a general category, and can be followed by a noun without article. (They can also be followed by a noun with an article, referring to something more specific, as mentioned above.)

It's true that singular count nouns are often preceded by an article, but this isn't true 100% of the time. Article use or non-use also depends on particular phrases, such as the ones above. Other examples of phrases with count nouns but no article include:

  • I'm going to school.
  • He ran for president.
  • I read the book from cover to cover.

I hope that helps :)

Jonathan

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Sokhom on Tue, 31/08/2021 - 06:39

In reply to by Jonathan R

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Thank you very much, sir. Your explanation is very clear and it helps me a lot. :)

Submitted by Sokhom on Sun, 28/11/2021 - 08:49

In reply to by Jonathan R

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Hello, Sir!
I read a book (Vocabulary in Use), and encountered a sentence 1 (in the book). I added the articles "a" and "-s" to the word "bird" in order to distinguish the meanings. This is what I get:
1. There are approximately 20 varieties of bird in this species. ("bird" in general which is in one species)
2. There are approximately 20 varieties of a bird in this species. ("a bird" in particular which is in one species (i.e. a parrot in which there are 20 kinds of it)
3. There are approximately 20 varieties of birds in this species.
a. ("birds" in general which is in one species) like the meaning in the sentence 1
b. ("birds" in specific (i.e. a parrot in which there are 10 types if it and a chicken in which there are 10 kinds of it)
I was wondering if I'm right, especially in the sentence 3. Could you please tell me if "bird" (in 1) and " birds" (in 3.a) refer to birds in generaI?
Your explanation is a great help for me.
Best Wishes!

Hello Sokhom, I'm afraid I don't know enough about what exactly a variety of bird means here to be able to answer your question with confidence. Is it possible for different varieties to be the same species? Or are they considered sub-species? Perhaps sentence 3 could be correct if so, but without understanding this better I couldn't say. Hope this helps. All the best, Kirk The LearnEnglish Team

Thank you very much, Sir!
I wanted to know if I'm right:
1. Scientists have recently discovered two new species of plant.
+ "plant" (in general): it may be flowers, bamboos, beans, etc. I think it must be 2 new species of flowers or 2 new species of beans, but it cannot be one new species of flower and one new species of bean; that's is, it must be two of a kind.
2. Scientists have recently discovered two new species of a plant.
+ "a plant" (in specific) refers to two new species of one particular plant (i.e. 2 new varieties of a rose: Shrub roses and Polyantha roses). I think in here we talk only about flowers, but not bamboos, beans, etc.
3. Scientists have recently discovered 2 species of plants.
+ "plants" (in general): it may be two new kinds of flowers, 2 new kinds of beans, or one new kind of flower and one new kind of bean.
I'm still not sure about "2 new species of plant" and " 2 new species of plants" because they (plant & plants) can refer to plants in general.
Thank you for your precious time.
Best Wishes!

Hello Sokhom,

Yes, you're right about these, though I'm not sure the difference you see between 1 and 3 is really there. Both of them speak of two plants that are considered new species, but the singular or plural doesn't clearly indicate whether they're of the same group of plants or not.

Well done!

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Your responses are really a big help for me, Sir! :)
1.Scientists have recently discovered two new species of plant.
2. Scientists have recently discovered two new species of plants.
I really wanted to know if the two sentences are exactly the same in meaning.
I really appreciate it!
Best Wishes!