70 articles (1 0): special rules and exceptions
1. common expressions without articlesIn some common fixed expressions to do with place, time and movement, normally countable nouns are treated as uncountables, without articles.
to/ at/ in/from school/ university! college
to/in/into/out of bed/prison
to/inlintolollt of hospital (BrE)
With place nouns, expressions with or without articles may have different
- I met her at college. (when we were students)
J'll meet you at the college. (The college is just a meeting place.)
- lane's in hospital. (as a patient)
I left my coat in the hospital when I was visiting ]ane.
- Who smokes in class?(= ... in the classroom?)
Who in the class smokes? (= Who is a smoker ...?)
In American English, university and hospital are not used without articles.
She was unhappy at the university.
Say that again and I'll put you in the hospital.
2. double expressionsArticles are often dropped in double expressions, particularly with
with knife and fork
on land and sea
day after day
with hat and coat
arm in arm
husband and wife
inch by inch
from top to bottom
For cases like the bread and (the) butter, see 178.
3. possessive'sNouns lose their articles after possessive 's.
the coat that belongs to John= John's coat (NOT }tJhn's ti'te eoot OR ti'te}tJhn's
the economic problems ofAmerica= America's economic problems (NOT the
;4met'iett's ee6ntmtie p1'6blem:s)
But the possessive noun itself may have an article.
the wife of the boss =the boss's wife
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4. noun modifiersWhen a noun modifies another noun, the first noun's article is dropped.
lessons in how to play the guitar = guitar lessons
a spot on the sun =a sunspot
5. both and allWe often leave out the after both.
Both (the) children are good at maths.
And we often leave out the between all and a number.
All (the) three brothers were arrested.
We usually leave out the after all in all day, all night, all week, all year,
all winter and all summer.
He's been away all week.
I haven't seen her all day.
6. kind ofetcWe usually leave out a/an after kind of, sort of, type of and similar expressions
What kind of (a) person is she?
Have you got a cheaper sort of radio?
They've developed a new variety of sheep.
7. amount and numberThe is dropped after the amount/number of.
I was surprised at the amount of money collected.
The number of unemployed is rising steadily.
8. (NOT ••• tlj.rthe mottey)man and woman
Unlike other singular countable nouns, man and woman can be used in a
general sense without articles.
Man and woman were created equal.
But we more often use a woman and a man, or men and women.
A woman without a man is lilce a .fish without a bicycle. (old feminist joke)
Men and women have similar abilities and needs.
Man is also commonly used to mean 'the human race', though many people
regard this usage as sexist and prefer to avoid it (see 222.6).
How did Man first discover fire?
9. days, months and seasonsWe drop the when we mean 'the day/month before or after this one'.
Where were you last Saturday? See you on Thursday.
We're moving next September.
I was away in April.
To talk about the seasons in general, we can say spring or the spring, summer
or the summer, etc. There is little difference.
I lilce (the) winter best.
Rome is lovely in (the) spring.
When we are talking about particular springs, summers etc, we are more likely
to use the.
I worlced very hard in the summer that year.
page 63articles (10): special rules and exceptions 70
10. musical instrumentsWe often use the + singular when we talk about musical instruments in
general, or about playing musical instruments.
The violin is really difficult.
Who's that on the piano?
But the is often dropped when talking about jazz or pop, and sometimes when
talking about classical music.
This recording was made with Miles Davis on trumpet.
She studied oboe and saxophone at the Royal Academy of Music.
11. (the) radio. (the) cinema. (the) theatre and televisionWhen we talk about our use of these forms of entertainment, we generally say
the radio, the cinema, the theatre, but television or 1V.
I always listen to the radio while I'm driving.
It was a great treat to go to the cinema or the theatre when I was a child.
What's on 1V?
The is often dropped in all four cases when we talk about these institutions as
art forms or professions.
Cinema is different from theatre in several ways.
He's worked in radio and television all his life.
12. jobs and positionsThe is not used in titles like Queen Elizabeth, President Lincoln. Compare:
Queen Elizabeth had dinner with President Kennedy.
The Queen had dinner with the President.
And the is not usually used in the complement of a sentence, when we say that
somebody has or gains a unique position (the only one in the organisation).
- They appointed him Head Librarian. - He was elected President in 1879.
Where's the librarian?
1 want to see the President.
13. exclamationsWe use at an with singular countable nouns in exclamations after What.
What a lovely dress! (NOT Ylhat ltwely tit'essn
Note that a/an cannot be used in exclamations with uncountable nouns.
What nonsense! (NOT Ynittt a ntJrtstmse.~
14. illnessesThe names of illnesses and pains are usually uncountable, with no article, in
standard British English (for more details, see 148.7).
Have you had appendicitis? I've got toothache again.
AI an is used in a few cases such as a cold, a headache.
I've got a horrible cold.
Have you got a headache?
The can be used informally with a few common illnesses.
I think I've got (the) flu.
She's never had (the) measles.
American usage is different in some cases.
I've got a toothache I an earache I a hac/cache I a stomachache. (BrE I've got
page 64articles (10): special rules and exceptions 70
15. parts of the body etcWhen talking about parts of someone's body, or about their possessions, we
usually use possessives, not the.
Katy broke her arm climbing. (NOT Kal}' bfflke n'ie ai"m elimbing.)
He stood in the doorway, his coat over his arm. (NOT ••• the eaat atJer the
But the is common after prepositions, especially when we are talking about
blows, pains and other things that often happen to parts of people's bodies.
She hit him in the stomach.
He was shot in the leg.
Can't you look me in the eye?
16. measurementsNote the use of the in measuring expressions beginning with by.
Do you sell eggs by the kilo or by the dozen?
He sits watching 7V by the hour.
Can I pay by the month?
A/an is used to relate one measuring unit to another.
sixty pence a kilo
thirty miles an hour
twice a week
17. place namesWe use the with these kinds of place names:
• seas (the Atlantic)
• mountain groups (the Himalayas)
• island groups (the West Jndies)
• rivers (the Rhine)
• deserts (the Sahara)
• most hotels (the Grand Hotel)
• most cinemas and theatres (the Odeon; the Playhouse)
• most museums and art galleries (the British Museum; the Frick)
We usually use no article with:
• continents, countries, states, counties, departments etc (Africa, Brazil,
Texas, Berkshire, Westphalia)
• towns (OxfordJ
• streets (New Street, Willow RoadJ
• lakes (Lake Michigan)
Exceptions: places whose name is (or contains) a common noun like republic,
state, union (e.g. the People's Republic of China, the United Kingdom, the
Note also the Netherlands, and its seat of government The Hague.
The is unusual in the titles of the principal public buildings and organisations
of a town, when the title begins with the town name.
Oxford University (NOT me Oxfortl: llnitJersil}')
Hull Station (NoT the Httll Sttltiatt)
Manchester City Council
Cheltenham Football Club
With the names of less important institutions, usage varies.
(The) East Oxford Community Centre.
(The) Newbury School of English.
Names of single mountains vary. Most have no article.
But definite articles are usually translated in the English versions of European
mountain names, except those beginning Le Mont.
page 65as and though: special word order 71
The Meije (= La Meije)
the .'AtJnt Blane)
newspapers and magazines
The names of newspapers usually have the.
The Washington Post
The names of magazines do not always have the.
19. abbreviated stylesWe usually leave out articles in abbreviated styles (see 1).
notices, posters etc