The first phrase has 17 million hits on Google and the latter has 63 million hits. So, regardless of the relative popularity, it seems both phrases are common & acceptable.
My question is: Why is “the” in “Get to the doctor” acceptable?
In trying to explain to some non-native English speakers when to use “a” vs “the”, I usually say that “a” is used when it refers to one of many, and “the” is used when you are referring to the only one that exists (I’m sure the rules are more complex than that)
e.g., you say “I saw the Pope today” vs “I saw a cat today”
So, why is “the doctor” correct? There isn’t only one doctor. And yet, it sounds OK to my ears. It doesn’t sound wrong.
Is there an implied “Get to the doctor that is closest to you” or “Get to the doctor that you usually visit” or some other implied part of the sentence that makes “the doctor” correct?
Or is there a rule about the usage of “the” vs “a” that makes it acceptable in this case?
[Bonus question: “Fight to the death”: why “the death”? “The death” by itself sounds nonsensical, but in that phrase it sounds OK]