This is a question for our British and perhaps Australian friends.
I’ve noticed, through the viewing of many British comedies and movies, that the article “the” is left out of sentences a lot, usually when saying things like “Timmy got hit by a car so we had to take him to hospital” and “Got to get up early to be at mill by starting time.”
I notice it most with the word “hospital” but is it more common than I think? Or, is it just with “hospital”?
“What’s deal” with that?
It is there, but it’s just hard to pick up.
In the north particularly, it can vary between a very hard T
“I’m off T’pub” to something more like a glottal stop. I’m no linguist though so this could be a really crap explanation.
Being Australian, and used to this, I find the American usage of “the hospital” sounds odd to my ears. In Australia, and the UK, if you “go to hospital”, that means you are going to be admitted as a patient. If you “go to the hospital”, it could be because you work there, or you are visiting somebody: “Timmy went to hospital, so I’m going to the hospital to visit him”. This provides a useful distinction. The same applies to words like “court” and “church”: “going to church” means you are attending a service, and “Going to the church” means you could be there for any other reason.
The dropping of “the” in front of the word “mill” is a different thing. That’s merely part of a local dialect in parts of England, and doesn’t provide any clue of the speaker’s reason for going to the mill.
I also read a lot of “in future.” Around these parts we say “in the future.” This isn’t a distinction of function, is it?
As for the “box of” something, I too think it’s a combination of lazy speaking and, in NY anyway, the slurring of words. “A box of nails” becomes “Bocksa nails” with the “of” still present but barely audible.
The British use of just “hospital” where Americans would say “the hospital” can seem odd to Americans, but it makes sense if you think about it. Even Americans drop the “the” when talking about other institutions, such as schools or prisons. You wouldn’t say “Harry is in the prison” if you meant to say he was an inmate, or “Harry is in the school” if you meant to say he was a student. But for some reason it is common American usage to say “Harry is in the hospital” if he is a patient. Goodness knows why.
To be honest, every time I hear the American usage of “the hospital”, I think of Leslie Nielsen movies:
“He’s in the hospital!”
“The hospital? What is it?”
“It’s a big building with lots of sick people, but that’s not important right now.”