articles: special rules and exceptions

  • Common expressions without articles
  • Articles are not used in these expressions:

      to school at school from school to/at/from university/college to/at/in/into/from church to/in/into/out of bed/prison/hospital to/at/from work to/at sea to/in/from town at/from home for/at/to breakfast/lunch/dinner/supper at night by car/bus/bicycle/plane/train/tube/ boat on foot go to sleep watch television (TV) on TV

  • Possessives
  • A noun that is used after a possessive (like John’s, America’s), has no article.
    John’s coat (not the John’s eeat)
    America’s economic problems
    (NOT the America’s economic problems)

  • Musical instruments
  • We usually use the article the when we talk in general about a musical

      I’d like to learn the piano.

    But the is not used when we talk about jazz or pop music.

      This recording was made with Miles Davis on trumpet.

  • all and both
  • We sometimes leave out the after both, and after alt when there is a number.

      Both (the) children are good at maths.
      All (the) eight students passed the exam.

    We can say all day, all night, all week, all summer/winter, all year, without

      I’ve been waiting for you all day.

  • Seasons
  • We can say in spring or in the spring, in summer or in the summer, etc. There is little difference.

  • Jobs and positions
  • We use the article with the names of jobs.

      My sister is a doctor. (NOT My sister is doctor )

    But the is not used in titles like Queen Elizabeth, President Lincoln.

  • Exclamations
  • We use a/an in exclamations after what, with singular countable nouns.

      What a lovely dress! (NOT What lovely dress!)

  • Nature
  • We often use the with the words town, country, sea, seaside and mountains, even when we are talking in general. The same happens with wind, rain, snow and sun(shine).

      Do you prefer the town or the country?
      I love the mountains
      I like the noise of the wind
      She spends her time lying in the sun.

  • Place-names
  • We usually use the with these kinds of place-names:

      seas (the Atlantic)
      mountain groups (the Himalayas)
      island groups (the West Indies)
      rivers (the Rhine)
      deserts (the Sahara)
      hotels (the Grand Hotel)
      cinemas and theatres (the Odeon, the Playhouse) museums and art galleries (the British Museum, the Tate)

    We usually use no article with:

      continents, countries, states, counties, departments etc
      (Africa, Brazil, Texas, Berkshire, Westphalia) towns (Oxford) streets (New Street) lakes (Lake Michigan)

    Exceptions: countries whose name contains a common noun like republic, state(s), union (the People’s Republic of China, the USA, the USSR). Note also the Netherlands, and its seat of government the Hague.
    We do not usually use the with the names of the principal buildings of a town.
    Oxford University (NOT the Oxford University)
    Salisbury Cathedral Birmingham Airport Bristol Zoo
    Names of single mountains vary — some have articles, some do not (Everest, the Matterhorn).

  • Newspapers
  • The names of newspapers usually have the.
    The Times The Washington Post Most names of magazines do not have the.
    Punch New Scientist

  • Special styles
  • We leave out articles in some special ways of writing, newspaper headlines MAN KILLED ON MOUNTAIN notices, posters etc SUPER CINEMA, RITZ HOTEL
    WIFE ILL MUST CANCEL HOLIDAY Open packet at other end palm inner surface of hand between wrist and fingers take car to garage-, buy buttons; pay phone bill
    J. thinks company needs new office
    telegrams instructions dictionary entries