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Why no article?

I wrote this ‘my sister goes to the school’.
My teacher say is wrong, and I have to write ‘my sister goes to school’.
I don’t understand why has no article – can you help?


  • Hi @Hector_Hernandez
    Good question, this can be a bit confusing!
    Bear with me, I'll get one of my colleagues to reply to you!

  • edited November 2017

    Hi @Hector_Hernandez,

    In this situation, context is important. 'My sister goes to the school' isn't incorrect, but it does imply that you are talking about a specific school. For example, you might say 'my sister goes to the school that I went to when I was young'. However, if you are wanting to get across a more general idea, the article is not needed, such as in a sentence like 'my family go to church' - the implication being that the family attend church generally, rather than one specific church.

    I hope that helps!


  • Hi Hector,

    The definite article THE is used when the listener/reader knows exactly which item is discussed. The second time the item is mentioned the article becomes a definite article.

    Ex: I read an interesting book. The booked described Mexican food.

    Or, as it has been already explained in another post, the definite article THE is used to give specific information.

    Sometimes we omit the article because it is implied. When **not **_to use the article is tricky, but generally, we don't use articles before a noun that cannot be counted (an uncountable noun) abstract ideas (ex. beauty, ego, humour etc), nationalities, sports, academic subjects, languages, or when we are speaking in general, which is your case. ('_My sister goes to school').

    I hope this information was useful.

    Best regards,

  • Hola @georgiemalcolm and @zuixchilli
    Thank you, I understood now.
    But I saw a gate has a sign 'no parking in front of gate' and this I don't understand.
    Because is for one gate, is not general, I think.

  • DavidCrosbieDavidCrosbie ✭✭✭
    edited November 2017

    Hector, there are a few words where we omit the usual article (the technical term for the words a and the). I'm afraid you'll have to learn them. Fortunately there aren't too many. The words normally refer to a building where some important activity happens. Here are some examples

    go to a school means 'go to a building where education for children happens'
    go to the school means 'go to the building that we know about where education for children happens'
    go to school means 'go as a child to receive education'

    We can't say The bus went to school because buses don't receive education.
    We don't usually say The teacher went to school unless we mean 'The teacher went to receive training in the same way as a child receives school education'.

    The ambulance went to the hospital

  • DavidCrosbieDavidCrosbie ✭✭✭
    edited November 2017

    Sorry, my post wasn't finished. Here are some more words

    The ambulance went to a hospital 'went to a place where medical treatment happens'.
    The ambulance went to the hospital means 'went to the place that we know about where medical treatment happens'.

    The sick man went to hospital means 'The sick man went to the place where he could get medical treatment'.

    We can't say The ambulance went to hospital because ambulances don't receive medical treatment.

    Go to the church means 'go to the building where Christian worship happens'
    Go to church means 'go and worship in a church'

    Your example My sister goes to the school means 'My sister regularly visits the school'. It's a strange thing to say without some other information such as My sister goes to the school once a week in the evening to meet other parents.

    The simple sentence My sister goes to school means 'My sister is a schoolgirl'.

  • Hector, your second example NO PARKING IN FRONT OF GATE is different. We often don't follow the usual rules of grammar in signs or newspaper headlines or text messages. We miss out little words to make them short. Very often the word we miss out is the.

    But we don't say in front of gate when speaking. And we don't write in front of gate in normal texts with sentences.

  • Here's another word:

    The van went to the prison

  • Sorry! the post wasn't finished. the example is

    The van went to the prison.
    The bank robber went to prison means 'The bank robber was jailed'

    We can't say The van went to prison.
    We don't say The prison warder went to prison unless we mean that the warder was jailed.

    We use the same grammar for go to jail/go to the jail and with a different spelling go to gaol/go to the gaol

  • OK, Hector, here's a way to learn these exceptions. I hope it helps:

    go to school means 'be (or become) a schoolboy or schoolgirl'
    go to university means 'be (or become) a university student'
    go to hospital means 'be (or become) a hospital patient'
    go to church means 'be (or become) a worshipper in a church'
    go to prison means 'be (or become) a prisoner'
    go to jail means the same

  • edited November 2017

    Thank you, I understood.
    the ambulance go to hospital = the ambulance is sick! :smile:

  • Hector, I am afraid your last example isn't correct.
    It should be "The ambulance goes to the hospital" and this doesn't mean that the ambulance is sick.
    If you said "An ambulance goes to hospital" that would imply that all ambulances go to hospital, (That is their main function, to take people to hospital when they are ill.)

  • @RachelB
    Thank you too.
    I understood, I am doing a joke :)
    But is very better for understand now, with help from everyone - thank you very much!

  • DavidCrosbieDavidCrosbie ✭✭✭
    edited December 2017

    It's probably my fault that you made the mistake that RachelB spotted. The joke was good but the word go was a mistake.

    I wrote lots of examples beginning go to and you copied go to hospital from my lists. In the sentence which your teacher corrected you wrote My sister goes to the school. You knew that goes was necessary.

    I think there are (at least) two sorts of grammar problems we need to learn in a new language.

    There's a very general rule that English adds S (spelled s or es pronounced SS or ZZ or IZ) for the sort of verb form we call PRESENT SIMPLE when the SUBJECT is SINGULAR. This is an easy rule to understand, and it's very useful to learn because it's true for almost all English verbs. But it's also very easy to forget. It's the sort of mistake we all make when we're concentrating on something else.

    These rules aren't easy to understand because there's one rule for worlds like hospital, school, university, church and a different rule for other words like pharmacy, theatre, factory, supermarket (which also refer to places where there's a special activity).

    I tried to make the rule simple by using only the form go.
    Perhaps I should have said there's a rule for go to school/goes to school/is going to school/was going to school/ went to school/has gone to school/had gone to school

  • edited December 2017

    Thank you, I understood the mistake - I always do this mistake!
    thank you very much! :)

  • @Hector_Hernandez
    Hi Hector. Here's another rule. It's not exactly GRAMMAR FOR PARTICULAR WORDS — rather WORDS WHICH GO TOGETHER. (Teachers use the technical term collocation.)

    The rules is that with some words referring to what your mind does we use make, not do. So there's not one rule for everything but a rule for each word.

    I'm afraid you have to learn the rules one by one. And then it's very very easy to forget. It's quite likely that you knew the rule but made a mistake.

    Here are a few to remember:

    make a mistake
    make an error
    make a typo
    make an effort
    make a decision
    make a promise

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