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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

Language level

Beginner: A1
Pre-intermediate: A2


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.


The LearnEnglish Team

Nice :D

Good explanation

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,


The LearnEnglish Team



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.


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,


The LearnEnglish Team


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

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

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.



The LearnEnglish Team