Teach and Learn English

EXPRESSIONS WITHOUT ARTICLES

Articles are important. And if anybody tells you the opposite - don't fall for that. There are, however,  some expressions in English when it is important NOT TO USE ARTICLES at all - just because...


  • The first and the most important thing to remember is that we do not use articles when we talk about people or things in general:
I don't like dogs. (not THE DOGS)
Do you collect coins? (not THE COINS)
Life can be hard sometimes. (not THE LIFE)
I couldn't live without music. (not THE MUSIC)
I fancy working with people. (not THE PEOPLE)

  • There are some common fixed phrases without articles. These include:
TO SCHOOL/AT SCHOOL/FROM SCHOOL
LEAVE/AT/ENTER SCHOOL/UNIVERSITY/COLLEGE
TO/AT/FROM UNIVERSITY or COLLEGE
TO/AT/IN/FROM CHURCH
TO/IN/INTO/OUT OF BED/PRISON
TO/IN/INTO/OUT OF HOSPITAL
TO/AT/FROM WORK
TO/AT SEA
TO/IN/FROM TOWN
AT/FROM/LEAVE HOME
BY DAY
AT NIGHT
BY CAR/BY BUS/PLANE/BIKE/TUBE/BOAT, ETC.
ON FOOT
BY RADIO/PHONE/LETTER/MAIL

  • With place names like HOSPITAL, SCHOOL, UNIVERSITY, COLLEGE, PRISON, CHURCH or BED similar expressions with articles may have different meanings:
I met her at school. (= when I was a student)
I met her at the school. (= the school was just a meeting place and the speaker is not a student anymore)

My dad is in hospital. (= he is a patient)
My dad is in hospital. (= he isn't a patient, maybe he was visiting somebody...)

Tom went to prison. (= he is/was a prisoner)
Tom went to the prison. (= he went to visit somebody)

I was in bed all day. (= I lay in bed all day because I was sleeping or I was sick)
Don't sit on the bed! (= do not sit on this particular bed)

In American English it is actually most common to use THE in front of the above mentioned places, without any difference in meaning.

  • We do not use articles in expressions like:
WITH KNIFE AND FORK
FROM TOP TO BOTTOM
ARM IN ARM
INCH BY INCH
DAY BY/AFTER DAY
HUSBAND AND WIFE
TO LIVE FROM HAND TO MOUTH
TO THROW ONESELF HEART AND SOUL INTO SOMETHING
BY WORD OF MOUTH
FIGHT TOOTH AND NAIL
BY HOOK OR BY CROOK
MADE BY HAND
CUT SCHOOL
MAKE WAY
CATCH FIRE
TAKE RESPONSIBILITY FOR
MAKE PEACE
TALK SENSE
MAKE SENSE
TAKE OFFICE
IN PURSUIT OF

or

ALL DAY/NIGHT/WEEK/YEAR/WINTER/SUMMER, ETC.

  • We do not use articles before meals, school subjects or sports:
What did you have for breakfast?
When can we have lunch?
Frank is cooking dinner.
We have Maths tomorrow.
I like playing football.

  • When we have expressions like SOMETHING + NUMBER, i.e. PAGE 7 or TERMINAL 8 we do not put an article before it:
I wear size 39.
We are on page 17.
Go to terminal 8.
Jules is in room 5.

  • There is no article in expressions which are Saxon Genitive AFTER 'S:
MAX'S CAR
JULES' DOLL
FRANCIS' NOTEBOOK

However, we can sometimes use articles before the first noun in Saxon Genitive:

THE TEACHER'S PC
THE BOSS' DESK

  • Similarly as in Saxon Genitive above, when we have two nouns and the first one 'describes' the latter, there is no article before the first noun:
PIANO LESSONS
BUSINESS ENGLISH
SHOP WINDOW
CLASSICAL MUSIC

  • We often drop THE after BOTH:
Both managers were preoccupied with the results of the campaign.
Both kids were delighted.

  • We do not use an article before MOST:
Most people like watching sport. (not THE MOST)

  • There is no article after SORT OF, KIND OF or TYPE OF:
Harry is sort of person who always knows what to do.
Frank's company developed some kind of new device that could replace smartphones in the future.

  • MAN, A MAN or THE MAN?
Traditionally, we used to say MAN or WOMAN (without any articles) when we spoke in general:
Man and woman should be treated equally.

However, more and more often we simply use the plural, i.e. MEN or WOMEN. Sometimes, we also use A MAN or A WOMAN in that meaning:
Men and women should be treated equally.
A man and a woman should be treated equally.

  • We never use THE before TV or TELEVISION:
Max loves watching cartoons on TV.

  • We don't use articles with the following:
PROPER NOUNS (John, Ann Scott)
MONTHS (May, January)
DAYS OF THE WEEK (Monday, Tuesday)
HOLIDAYS (Easter, Christmas)

  • There are no articles before some geographical names. These include:
CONTINENTS (Africa)
COUNTRIES and CITIES (there are a few exceptions to that rule, eg. the Netherlands)
ISLANDS (Majorka, Madagascar)
MOUNTAIN TOPS (Mount Everest)
STREETS (Oxford Street)
ROADS (Abbey Road)
SQUARES (Times Square)
PARKS (Central Park)
NAMES OF MANY PUBLIC PLACES or INSTITUTIONS WHEN THE FIRST WORD IS A NAME (not an adjective) (Oxford University, Trinity College, Tate Modern, Buckingham Palace)
SHOPS, RESTAURANTS and HOTELS which are named after people/th founders when those names have ' or 's (McDonald's, Macy's)

  • When there is a king of a title or function before a name, there is no article either:
DOCTOR SMITH
PRESIDENT KENNEDY
AUNT SUE
SAINT PETER
QUEEN ELIZABETH

  • No article before SOUTHERN, NORTHERN, EASTERN or WESTERN:
SOUTHERN GERMANY
EASTERN EUROPE

AND SOME EXERCISE TO PRACTICE ARTICLES - Click on the link below:

ARTICLES WORKSHEET WITH EXERCISES


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