Hospital/the Hospital, School/the School: Dicas imperdíveis

josneywat 6

Study the following example situation:

James had an accident. He went to hospital.
He had to stay in hospital for many days.
I went to the hospital to visit him.
He got very happy to see me at the hospital.

Someone goes to hospital or is in hospital if he is ill or injured. We are not necessarily thinking of a particular hospital. If someone goes to a hospital as a visitor, then we use the hospital, because we mean a particular hospital (in our example the one where James is).

The same occurs with other places, like prison, school, university, college, church.

A criminal goes to prison (not to the prison), a child goes to school, a student goes to university/college. We do not use the when we are thinking of the idea of these places and what they are used for:


After I leave school, I want to go to university (as a pupil).
Why aren't the children at school today? (they are pupils)
Mrs. Jones goes to church every Sunday. (for a religious service)
Mary's brother went to prison for robbery. (he is a prisoner)

Now study the following examples with the:

I have to go to the school to meet my son's teacher. (not as a pupil)
Excuse me, where is the university? (a particular building)
The workmen went to the church to repair the roof. (they didn't go there for a religious service)
Mary went to the prison to visit her brother. (she went there only as a visitor)

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4 respostas
Henry Cunha 3 17 182
Very good post. Congratulations!
Daniel.S 1 2 7

Thank you for such good job, man.
Thomas 7 60 288
It would be interesting to know Josneywat's source. I go to college, to class, to work, to school, to church, to mass, and to prison. I go to the university, but I do not go to university. A few times (in the USA) I heard "go to university" but it clearly more common in the UK. I have not heard "go to hospital". Is this British English? It is not American English.

This is definitely a weak point of forums such as this. I have been in about 17 Spanish speaking countries. Spanish varies slightly from country to country, and so do English and Portuguese. It is nice to know WHERE something is the correct word, phrase, point of grammar, etc. There was a post a few weeks ago about mixing British and American pronunciation. I see that as a minor problem when compared to mixing slang expressions, grammar rules, etc.
Henry Cunha 3 17 182
I found your comment interesting, that you'd say "I go to the university" and not "I go to university." Understand, I'm not questioning your usage, but I am questioning whether it's the standard even for the US. I happen to have gone to high school and university (ok, you'd probably call it "college") in the States, and see nothing unusual about saying "I go to university." I can't see where "university" needs to be expressed any less generically than prison or work, etc.

Now, the odd thing is, I agree about "hospital." At least in North America, we'd probably say "I'm going (or: I go)to the hospital" and not "I'm going to hospital". We also say "I go to the police," and not "I go to police" (I guess only police can go policing?).

I don't think there's a clear operating procedure here. Or, is there?
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