Why do British English speakers omit the definite article? "Go to Hospital!"

I hear british speakers omit the def. article and speak as if the noun were personal –

“Take me to hospital”

“When did you go to university?”

(Courtroom) “My lord, witness is in error”
How did this different use occur? The omitting of ‘the’ strikes american ears as odd. Or do I have it backwards, did Americans add ‘the’ where before it was unnecessary?

Here in America, I have heard nurses of different doctor’s offices refer to their doctor as “Doctor,” not “Doctor so-and-so,” and not, “The Doctor,” just “Doctor.” As in:
Doctor will see you now.
Make an appointment with Doctor.
Doctor has given you a referral to the lab.

I’m curious as to precisely where you heard this usage. Not only have I never heard it, I’ve never even heard OF it. It may be a regionalism.

The definite article is common in Hiberno-English (i.e. the English spoken in Ireland). This is because there is no indefinite article in the Irish (Gaelic) language.

We use ‘the hospital’ but have other uses that might sound bizarre to other English speakers “the AIDS”, “the arthritis” etc. These are by no means universal in Ireland but are common enough to mention.

Your example “When did you go to university?” I would interpret as meaning
“When did you attend general college/university?” whereas with the definite article it would mean “When did you last visit the specific university?”

Here in the American South we even stick articles in where there shouldn’t be any at all. “I’m going to the Wal-Mart, do you want to go?” “He’s got the AIDS, you know.” “The doctor says I got the sugar.”

American English: “When did you go to school?”

I’ve never heard that usage at all, and I spend a lot of time around nurses and doctors (for my job, not 'cause I’m sick). It’s always, “The doctor will see you now” or “Dr. Smith is running behind.”

Go to a nursing home or similar environment. “Doctor” is used as a proper noun when talking down to patients. I’ve heard this usage in the mid-Atlantic, Midwest, New England, and Northwest regions, as well as in Canada.

Why do British English speakers omit the definite article? “Go to Hospital!”

They need those extra 'the’s for use at the weekend.

The use without the definite article indicates a general descriptive state. We use the definite article where it’s necessary to define a specific place:

Similarly for something like university:

Ive only heard 'where did you go to school?" And that also implies elementary school, which is nondistinct, as compared to high schools and colleges, which matter more in the adult world.

Try “When did you go to hospital”? And it sounds bad on American ears.

Brit here, despite the location.

I sometimes think that questions beginning with “Why” should be banned from GQ. And especially if it relates to how people speak because the answer is pretty much always “because”. There’s no logic.

For the first two example, what Cunctator said. For the third, never heard of it.

Those old-timey movies Americans seem to omit it to.

Like “Teacher says I’m the smartest.” or “I’m telling teacher on you.”

I have heard the use of nurse and doctor in those movies too as, “She’s a bear, trust me you don’t want to get nurse mad at you.”

They seem to be using nurse, doctor or teacher in place of a personal name.

I noticed English people also say “going to University” instead of the name of said university.

Which means exactly the same as Americans saying “going to college”. There is no cultural difference here.

I am going to college in the fall.
Which college?

I am going to university in the autumn.
Which university?

In those cases, the student is using “Teacher” as a proper name. It’s usually students of a particular teacher, and generally elementary school students.

Like in the 50s, when you knew someone was a juvenile delinquent because he called the teacher “Teach.”

I’ll note that in Canada and perhaps Britain, colleges and universities are completely distinct. Here, universities are just large colleges. So even if we go to a university, we’re still going to college. They can only go to college or university, not both. (Well not at the same time anyway.)

Except for the college/university thing.

It seems that* hospital* refers to a state and the hospital refers to a place.

If you are in hospital/university/etc/ or taken to hospital/going to university, in British usage, you are a beneficiary of whatever the institution was set up to accomplish: a patient in a hospital, a student in a university, etc. The identity of which specific hospital/university/whatever is subordinated to the general concept of being in one of them.

The definite article suggests the physical environs – one goes from the commercial centre to the university by travelling northeast; one goes to the hospital to visit a sick friend or relative.

American usage, of course, fails to make this distinction, using the definite article in the first case as well as the second.

Correct - in Britain, ‘college’ mostly refers to just about any educational institution which is neither a school or a university. There are some exceptions, such as the quasi-independent colleges (Imperial College, King’s College London, etc.) which make up the University of London.