Articles 2

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

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Submitted by krollos on Thu, 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)?
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Submitted by Peter M. on Fri, 08/05/2020 - 06:55

In reply to by 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

Submitted by misagh on Wed, 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?
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Submitted by Kirk on Thu, 07/05/2020 - 06:57

In reply to by misagh

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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

Submitted by H_L on Tue, 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

Submitted by H_L on Tue, 05/05/2020 - 19:21

In reply to by 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)

Submitted by Lal on Fri, 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

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Submitted by Rafaela1 on Tue, 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!

Submitted by ann1047 on Tue, 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

Submitted by Victoria Krykova on Sat, 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

Submitted by Van on Mon, 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

Submitted by 8130445980 on Wed, 01/04/2020 - 16:11

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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

Submitted by saja1987 on Mon, 23/03/2020 - 12:30

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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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Submitted by Kirk on Mon, 23/03/2020 - 15:52

In reply to by saja1987

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Hello saja1987

For Grammar test 2 sentence 3, you have to capitalise 'The' -- in other words, 'the' is not correct, but 'The' is. The first letter of sentences is capitalised in English. The same is true for Grammar test 1 sentence 4: 'The' is correct, but not 'the'.

All the best

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Maite9220 on Mon, 30/03/2020 - 19:14

In reply to by saja1987

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Hi! The test has marked them as a mistake because they are the beginnig of a sentence so they start in capital letters. I hope it helps :)

Submitted by Cathymini28 on Wed, 18/03/2020 - 13:15

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Good afternoon teachers! I'm very confused about the use of the article "the". Do we say "I watched the TV" or "I watched TV" I've always said and used "watch TV" but I've heard on a video from an English teacher "I watched the TV" actually it was "telly" but I don't think it makes any difference to the grammar rule? Many thanks for your help. Kind regards. Cathy

Hello Cathy,

You can actually use either the TV or just TV in these contexts. It's something which has developed over time so it's more the result of convention and habit that any grammar rule. You just need to remember, and not just with TV:

watch something on TV / the TV

listen to the radio (not just radio)

read on the Internet (not just Internet)

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Greta on Tue, 25/02/2020 - 14:07

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Hello, Why in the sentence Well, we'd just come back from town, hadn't we, Doreen "the" is missing before town?
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Submitted by Peter M. on Wed, 26/02/2020 - 07:32

In reply to by Greta

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Hello Greta,

It's an unusual use, isn't it? People often use this with the same meaning  as come back from the town. In other words, the speaker and the listener both know which town is referenced - probably, the nearest local town.

Unfortunately, the pattern is not consistent with other phrases. We do not use country in the same way, but rather talk about come back from the country. The same is true of other geographical terms: from the mountains, from the forest, from the seaside, from the city, from the village, from the lake etc.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Thank you very much, Peter! Your comment is useful for me.

Submitted by lawon on Wed, 19/02/2020 - 09:30

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I'm trying to improve my English skills. And, all of the grammar chapters helped a lot.