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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

Comments

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)

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

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

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

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

Hello Victoria

I'm sorry that was confusing. Normally, we'd say a teacher goes to 'the school' to work, not 'to school' to work. If a teachers goes 'to school', normally that'd mean they are taking classes as a student.

The same would be true of social workers and wardens -- they go to 'the prison', unless they've committed a crime and are serving a sentence there.

I'm going to edit my answer above so that it's clearer in case other people read it in the future. Sorry for the confusion!

All the best

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

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.

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