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

It is exactly the same usage as “school”… “I have to go to school tomorrow” which refers to grades K-12 (everything before uni).


Use “the” when referring to the building. Do not use “the” when referring to the institution.

“I went to University to get my degree.” “I’m just stopping by the University to pick up my books.”

“I’m off to the Hospital to visit my Mum.” “I have to go to Hospital to get some tests done.”

And the colleges of Oxford and Cambridge.

Yes - I was meaning with respect to grammar. And saying “school” when referring to any education beyond high school is another cultural difference.

Exactly. I don’t think the usage is that different between America and Britain, except in the “hospital” case. In fact “hospital” seems to be an exception to general US usage.

E.g. Americans don’t say “I’ll be late for the school”, or “I have to go to the school in the morning”, would they?

A better question would be why US usage includes “the” for the case of going to hospital.

Have you looked it up on the Google?

Teh Googles says, “Meh!”.

I’ll say I went to school, I went to college, but I wouldn’t say “I went to university.” Saying I went to college means to me, “I’m simply telling you I continued my education after high school without specifying where.” If I wanted you to know which school, I’d say “I went to XYZ University” (or University of XYZ).

My ex speaks British English and would say “I have to go to office” and “My father went to hospital.” It bounced off me like she was saying “Everybody works in an office, like everyone goes to school” and “It doesn’t really matter which hospital, the point is that he’s sick.”

More jarring, to me, is when the place is qualified but there still isn’t an article. “He went to university in New York.”

A farmer takes his hogs “to market” but a housewife goes “to the market” to buy the pork chops. To market=this big, vague place that nobody except farmers would care to know more specifically about. To the market=the specific one she always shops at.


I’ve never heard that expression before. “I have to go to work” or “I have to go to the office”, yes, but never just “office”. Politicans might talk about “entering office” in the sense of “taking up a position in the government”, but that’s about it.

Clarification: while she spoke British English, that’s because she was Indian. So, yet another splintering off from the mother ship.

Yeah, but just replace ‘university’ in this context with ‘college’. I’ve often mentioned that I went to college in Maryland, and never gotten a funny look for it. In this case, it’s not the article, it’s just the word used for ‘general higher education’.

True. I was referring to the pattern of introducing a noun with an article when you’re going to qualify it with a prepositional phrase, e.g. “I went to a university in New York.”

“I didn’t go to the school on Elm Street; I went to the one on Maple Avenue.” Now I’m not talking about education in general but using school as the word for a specific building.

College, school=higher education or a specific place. I guess it’s just that Americans don’t think of “university” as anything but a specific place?

In that case, she spoke Indian English, not British English - it’s sufficiently different to be a variant on its own.

[David Lee Roth]Got it bad, got it bad, got it bad, I’m hot for Teacher.[/David Lee Roth] :smiley:

A patient goes to hospital. A doctor goes to the hospital. Definitely the state versus place thing described above. Same as a student versus a teacher regarding “school” or a defendant versus a judge re “court”.

I think it’s a useful distinction.

American legal language also has an affinity for dropping definite articles – “Plaintiffs informed Defendant that they would not be able to deliver the goods as specified in the Agreement.” I hate it. I always want to stick some "[the]"s in there.

I’m not sure what you’re saying here, but in most circumstances, the question “Where do you go to school?” is asking where you got your bachelor’s degree. Generally speaking, once you’ve attained adulthood, no one cares where you went to primary school or high school.

One I’ve always loathed is “Council”.

Australia has three tiers of government: local councils, state, and federal. State and federal are the “big boys” yet they still say “the government”, but pissy, corrupt, small town little local councils have this almost royal thing of dropping “the”: They’ll say “Council has decided…”

Who do they think they are?

Isn’t there a similar example of “going on holiday” vs. “going on vacation”?

Is the speech pattern common among Scots-Irish? If so, it might explain its use in certain regions of the United States (Appalachia, some parts of the South) where Scots-Irish were a large percentage of early settlers/