The King's English vs. the US version...

This has bugged me for ages.

Why do brits not use the definite article ‘the’ before the word hospital? As in, “He’s in hospital”. That sounds so weird to this American. What’s wrong with, “He’s in the hospital”? :slight_smile:

Americans say “He’s in jail”, not “he’s in the jail”. They were mucking about. That’s how the other chap ended up in hospital.

It ain’t a matter of what’s wrong, it’s a matter of what’s customary. A Yank student would say “I’m going to college” but “I’m going to the university.” A Brit student (and Canadian also, I believe) would say “I’m going to university.” Minor idiomatic difference, we just get used to what we normally hear.

Americans drop the “the” when they indicate they are performing a function associated with the place. For example, a student will say, “I’m going to school,” but a person who merely works at the school would say, “I’m going to the school.” Likewise, I imagine someone who works at a hospital in the UK would say “I’m going to the hospital” whereas someone who was going there because he was sick would say “I’m going to hospital.”

So far as I’m concerned, if I say “the” hospital/university, I’m thinking of a specific one - Queen Mary’s hospital or HK University, say.

If someone is in a hospital or university, but I don’t know which one, I skip the article.

Yay! Finally I can say “I posted about this before…” :slight_smile:

This is a really long thread, too. Two pages!

(I’m glad hail ants and I think alike!)

Yeah, and we don’t spell the place “gaol” either. Why or why not all basically boils down to “it just happened to work out that way.”


Canadians do say that they’re going to university … and they also say that they’re going to college.

Canadian universities are akin to American colleges/universitys where students can recieve a Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) or Science (B.Sc.) in three years or a Bachelor of Arts/Science (Honours) in four.

Canadian colleges are akin to American community colleges/vocational schools/what have you where students can receive a diploma in an applied field in two to four years.

And Canadians do use the expression “frosh”, but don’t say “freshman”, “sophmore”, “junior”, or “senior”. (Rather, they’ll say “first/second/third/fourth year”.)

And actually we would say “The Queen’s English”!

No, Yanks would say “I’m going to university” or “I’m in university.” The difference is “I’m going to university” indicates you are a student there. “I’m going to the university” means you’re visiting the university.

I’ll have to respectfully disagree with that one there…I have never in my life said “I’m going to university,” and every time I hear it (and this has only been in a British context), it has sounded weird. Most of the time I’d say “I’m going to school, or college” or “I’m at the university.” I’d say “I’m going to the university” if I’m specifying where it is…"I’m going to the university in st louis,"etc.

I’d also never say “I’m in university,” I just wouldn’t use “in” at all. Either “at” or “going to the” or “a student at the”. Most of the time I just get around it by say school or college though.

(and I am a yank…I grew up on the east coast, just not living there any more - or are we equaling yank with all of america?)

Well actually no. We’d say "I’m going to college, or “I’m in *college”, but never “I’m in university” or “I’m going to university”. I have no idea why that is. But “college” seems to embody not only an actual institution but the whole condition or way of life of being in college. In this sense it can be used even if the institution you’re going to is called a university, or an institute of technology, or what have.

hmmm… well, I would agree with pulykamell, that I’m going to the <place>. indicates that you are heading in that direction, possibly visiting, whereas leaving out the ‘the’ indicates you are actually going there for a specific purpose eg:

“Go to THE hospital, then turn left at the lights…”


“I am going to hospital for an operation.”

I any case, this is nowhere near as annoying as omitting the ‘on’ before a day…
“A funny thing happened Monday”

should be

“A funny thing happened ON Monday.”


Hmmm…well, I’m American, and unless I’m overly influenced by my British friends now, I’m fairly certain that in the midwest we said “I’m going to university.” But my memory may be hazy. Granted, we’d usually say “college” instead of “university,” but my speech patterns says “He’s attending university” or “He’s in university” sounds right, but “He’s attending the university” or “He’s in the university” sounds wrong. But apparently, others talk differently.

Damn, that’s “what have you”.

Actually, now I have a feeling that I’ve must’ve picked up on the British way of talking as a goole search of “going to university” lights up with UK-specific sites. Gosh, maybe it’s because “college” means something different elsewhere in the world, so I don’t say “college” but drop in the word “university” where college would normally fit. Like, “Oh, my brother’s in university,” rather than what I used to say “my brother’s in college.” Arghhh…I’m becoming European. (Not that that’s a bad thing.) :slight_smile: