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

Language level

Beginner: A1
Pre-intermediate: A2

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

Permalink
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

Permalink
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

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

Submitted by Andrew22 on Tue, 27/04/2021 - 01:25

Permalink
hello, I used "the" with university of Nottingham in grammar test 2 but it was wrong. Could anyone explain why I was wrong? Please

Submitted by Jonathan R on Tue, 27/04/2021 - 03:46

In reply to by Andrew22

Permalink

Hi Andrew22,

It's the right word, but it needs a capital 'T' as it's the first word in the sentence :)

Jonathan

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Sameer Mankoo on Tue, 20/04/2021 - 14:42

Permalink
Why we used 'the' with bahamas? 5. She was born in Japan, but she went to '0' university in ' the ' Bahamas.

Hi Sameer Mankoo,

It's because it's a group of islands. We often use 'the' with groups of islands, e.g. the Bahamas, the Maldivesthe Philippines, the Channel Islands.

Jonathan

The LearnEnglish Team

Hi, Jonathan R,
I just wanted to ask why we don't use the before Japan as Japan is also a group of islands,I also understand we can say the Japanese archipelago.

Kalden

Hi Kalden,
Good question. It's simply because that group of islands has come to be called Japan, rather than any other name. Although we often use 'the' and a plural noun to name groups of islands, this is a pattern of usage rather than a universal rule (i.e., it's often true but not always true). The name for a place may be decided by many different factors (e.g., political, historical) as well as geographical ones.
Jonathan
The LearnEnglish Team

Hi Jonathan,
Thank you for the explanation.I had a question about why the article "the" is used in cometh the hour cometh the man ;the hour is upon us and let me have the honour of presenting this award to.
Kalden

Hi Kalden,

This is an idiom which means something like 'when the situation is desperate, a hero will appear' or 'a person will rise to meet the challenge'. The definite article is used in 'the hour' because it refers to a specific situation or time (i.e., the desperate situation that somebody is facing, or the time when action is needed). Similarly, it is used in 'the man' because it refers to a specific heroic person. (Exactly which situation and person are referred to, of course, depend on the exact context in which somebody uses this idiom. For example, imagine my brother needs to take an exam, and he's worried about whether he'll pass or not. I could say this idiom, meaning something like, 'when you take the exam, you'll rise to the challenge and do well'. The specific situation is the exam, and the specific person is my brother.)

Somebody would say 'the hour is upon us' to show that an event is starting or about to start, or that now is the time to do a particular action. So, 'the hour' refers to the specific time of that event/action. In your last example, it is a specific honour - 'the honour of presenting this award'.

I hope that helps.

Jonathan
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Hussainhxh on Tue, 13/04/2021 - 23:41

Permalink
Good explanation

Submitted by roberto90 on Mon, 12/04/2021 - 09:24

Permalink
why THE is the correct answer in this exercise? If he usually goes to the prison to teach classes. shouldn't be hyphen? 4. Every Friday my grandad goes to THE prison to teach a maths class.

Hello Roberto,

This is explained above where it says:

But we usually use the if someone is just visiting the place, and not there as a student/prisoner/patient, etc.

The idea in this sentence is that my grandad is a teacher who visits the prison, not a prisoner who stays there.

All the best,

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

 

 

Submitted by Maahir on Thu, 18/03/2021 - 03:13

Permalink
Hi teacher, If I am not wrong, "The" article can't be used with mountains but it can use with mountain range. So, I was thinking about the difference between mountain and mountain range. Could you kindly explain it more to me. Thanks

Hello Maahir,

A mountain is a single mountain and a range is a series of mountains that are connected together. Have a look at this Wikipedia article about Mount Shimbiris -- perhaps that will be a meaningful example for you. Be sure to read the full description.

All the best,

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Maahir on Thu, 11/03/2021 - 06:17

Permalink
Hello, I was wondering why we can't use "the" with Bahamas and Gambia. could you please explain it more?

Submitted by Peter M. on Thu, 11/03/2021 - 06:51

In reply to by Maahir

Permalink

Hello Maahir,

You can use 'the' with those places - it says exactly that on the page above.

The Gambia is an unusual case, but the Bahamas is an example of a country comprised of a number of islands, and these often have names including the definite article.

Other examples include the Philipines and the Seychelles.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Saurabh Ajay K… on Tue, 16/03/2021 - 07:06

In reply to by Maahir

Permalink
Maahir we're using "the" with Bahamas and Gambia

Submitted by Honey June on Thu, 14/01/2021 - 05:32

Permalink
I've learned that we can use "the" when we say thing that is only one all over the world.There is nothing the same with this word.How to say that. Is it particular?

Hello Honey June,

I'm responding to this comment and also your other one about Grammar test 1 question 3.

We don't usually use 'the' in the phrase 'at university', unless we are referring to a specific university that we've already mentioned. In this case, the sentence is about someone's plans: after she finishes school, she wants to go to university. It could be any university, and so no 'the' is used.

But if we had just been talking about a specific university -- for example, the university in our city -- then we could say 'the university' here. Does that make sense?

It's true that we often use 'the' to refer to unique things: 'the Taj Mahal', 'the Eiffel Tower', or 'the great pyramids', etc. You can read more about this and other uses of 'the' on our definite article page.

I'm afraid I don't completely understand your last question. If the page I have linked to doesn't answer your question, please ask us again in another way.

All the best,

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Honey June on Thu, 14/01/2021 - 05:27

Permalink
Hello, I am a little get confused about No3 in Grammar test 1.Why doesn't it need to add "the" at university?Could u explain me more clearly?

Submitted by khaingkhaingwin on Wed, 06/01/2021 - 15:47

Permalink
I don't understand No.3 in garmmar test 2----University of Nottinghom. Why doesn't put article "the".Please explain.

Hello khaingkhaingwin,

The correct answer is 'The University of Nottingham is in the United Kingdom'. It's not correct to put 'the' as the first word, since the first words of sentences are always capitalised.

Does that make sense? By the way, after you press the Check Answers button, a Show Answers button appears. You can see the corrections this way.

Hope this helps.

All the best,

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by LUIZ ANTONIO on Sun, 06/12/2020 - 20:01

Permalink
Hi Teacher Could you please explain to me which are the correct form in questions 4 and 5 in section Article 2? In the explanation, the "THE" get to used for Seas and oceans, Below you find the question. 4. the Nile is the longest river in Africa. It flows north from the Lake Victoria to the Mediterranean Sea.

Hi LUIZ ANTONIO,

The correct forms are as follows:

The Nile is the longest river in - Africa. It flows north from - Lake Victoria to the Mediterranean Sea.

We use 'the' for seas and oceans ('the Mediterranean Sea') and for rivers ('The Nile'), but we use no article for the names of continents ('- Africa') and lakes ('- Lake Victoria').

You can see the correct answers to any exercise once you have entered your answers and clicked 'Finish'.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Hi, in the first grammar test you should put in fourth example "Nile" without the but in grammar explanation, it is mentioned that "the" is used with oceans, rivers and mountains. Question: is it an error from british council team or is there another explanation to that. thank you.

Submitted by Jonathan R on Sat, 02/01/2021 - 11:31

In reply to by walimM

Permalink

Hi walimM,

Actually, in that question you should put in The Nile. I've just checked the exercise, and it marks The as correct for me. Did it give you an error?

Jonathan

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Yigitcan on Fri, 20/11/2020 - 14:44

Permalink
Hi team I have two question. 1-It's very hot today and Ben has turned on __ fan to get some fresh air.(right answer is the fan but I have been thinking no article. Why we use '' the''? 2-Ted is listening to __ news on __radio. He looks worried.(Blanks are' '' the' '.Are they a rule?)

Submitted by Peter M. on Mon, 23/11/2020 - 07:40

In reply to by Yigitcan

Permalink

Hi Yigitcan,

In your first example, we use 'the' because the meaning is that there is one fan available to cool him down. We say 'the' in similar situations even if there are multiple items. For example, we say 'turn on the light' in a room even if there are several lights to choose from. The assumption is that we mean the main light if there is nothing in the context to make another meaning clear.

In your second example, we always say 'the news'. You can say 'a news programme' but always 'the news'. It is a singular noun, even though it ends with an 's'.

We use 'the' with several channels of communication: 'on the radio', 'on the phone', 'on the Internet'. This is not a consistent rule, however, as we usually say 'on television', 'in a telegram', 'in a text', amongst others. Articles are governed by both rules and convention, so with forms like these there is often an arbitrary component which means they must simply be memorised.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Nhi Do on Thu, 19/11/2020 - 08:35

Permalink
Hello, Could you explain to me the different between two sentences: I go to school I go to the school Thank you. ND

Submitted by Kirk on Fri, 20/11/2020 - 06:42

In reply to by Nhi Do

Permalink

Hello Nhi Do,

This is explained in the Common phrases section on this page. If you are someone who regularly goes to school -- for example, a student who spends their day at school -- then you would typically say 'to school'. In general, if a person says 'I go to school', it means they are a student.

If you don't regularly spend your day at school, then 'to the school' would typically be the correct form to use. For example, if you are a parent of a student and are going to speak with your child's teacher at the school, you would typically say 'I'm going to the school'.

Does that make sense?

All the best,

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by AlanFab on Sun, 08/11/2020 - 16:19

Permalink
Hello When I want to pronounce a country which starts with "United". How do I pronounce "the"? Do I pronounce it as a "da" or as a "di"? (I don't know how to write it in phonetic language)

Submitted by Peter M. on Mon, 09/11/2020 - 08:39

In reply to by AlanFab

Permalink

Hello AlanFab,

The word 'united' has a consonant sound at the beginning: /juːˈnaɪ.tɪd/.

The pronunication of 'the' before this is generally weak /ðə/ unless for some contextual reason you wish to emphasise it.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by moudinho on Mon, 02/11/2020 - 22:35

Permalink
hello, i have a question you mentioned that the universities with "of" in the title also have "the" but in grammar test 2, question (3) [ ( ) university of Nottingham ] i supposed to answer (the) because it contains "of" in the title, but it's wrong, when i fill the gap with "the" it shows incorrect answer, why? ; that's kinda confusing. i hope someone can help me please.

Hi moudinho,

'The' is defintely the right answer here. Did you type it with a capital letter 'T' (The)? It needs that because it's the first word in the sentence. Try that, and let us know if it works.

Best wishes,

Jonathan

The LearnEnglish Team

oh, thanks a lot i didn't pay attention for capital letters, but yeah it worked when i typed it with capital T like this (The) thanks again for helping, i appreciate it.

Submitted by Iryna_hn on Mon, 28/09/2020 - 14:32

Permalink
Hello! Can you please explain to me the following cases: Test 1, 3. why isn`t there any article in "at (-) university" 8. the same in "sent to (-) prison" but 5. at (the) hospital But in Test 2 we have: 2. going to (the) prison; 4. goes to (the) prison; and then 7. going to (the) school, NOT going to (-) school Thank you in advance!

Submitted by Kirk on Mon, 28/09/2020 - 15:14

In reply to by Iryna_hn

Permalink

Hello Iryna_hn,

The reasons for these answers are outlined in the explanation above:

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.

  1. My son has started school now. I went to the school to meet his teacher.
  2. I went to the prison a lot when I was a social worker.
  3. I'm at the hospital. My sister has just had a baby.

In sentence 1, the person speaking didn't go to school as a student -- in other words, they were visiting the school. The same is true in sentences 2 and 3.

If you examine the questions from the tasks, you'll see similar situations when 'the' is used. 

If you have any more questions, please feel free to ask us, but please also explain why you think 'the' should or should not be used.

All the best,

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by danisep on Thu, 24/09/2020 - 00:15

Permalink
Why in test point 8 “The Danube flows from - Germany”, I can omit ‘the’ but in point 5,” She was born in Japan, but she went to - university in the Bahamas” I must to write ‘the’?

Hello danisep,

The answers to your questions is on the page.

 

There is no article before 'Germany' because 'we don't normally use an article for continents, most countries, cities, towns, lakes, mountains or universities'.

 

However, there is an article before 'Bahamas' because 'some countries are different. Country names with United have the. There are other countries which are exceptions too' (and 'the Bahamas' is given as an example).

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by FK1989 on Wed, 23/09/2020 - 22:37

Permalink
Hello. Is it correct to say that I am going to Seychelles? Is it correct to say that I am from Seychelles? Thank you. FK

Submitted by Peter M. on Thu, 24/09/2020 - 09:26

In reply to by FK1989

Permalink

Hello FK1989,

We say 'the Seychelles' (with the definite article). Other than that, both sentences are possible, but have different meanings. The first tells us about your destination; the second tells us about your origin.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Lal on Wed, 23/09/2020 - 06:24

Permalink
Hello Sir Is it all right to say that there are 12 tenses in English language? Please let me know. If it is wrong then how many tenses? Thank you. Regards Lal

Hello Lal,

This really depends on your definition of what a tense is. In modern grammar, a tense is generally defined as a change in the form of the verb which denotes the time of the action described. This is different from aspect (perfective and/or continuous), mood (indicative, subjunctive or imperative) and voice (passive or active).

If this definition is used, then we can say that English has two tenses: past and present. Everything else is some combination of aspect, mood and voice with those two tenses. There is no future tense in English, but rather a range of ways to talk about future time, including modal verbs like might, should, may, will etc.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Online courses
Learn English online – with the world's English experts