Read about how we use articles (a, an and the) with places in a town, then test yourself with these practice exercises.

Using articles with buildings

Institutions

Institutions are public buildings: school, college, university, prison, hospital and church. We don't say "a" or "the" when we are talking about the building's normal purpose (for students, criminals, sick people, religious people).

She was in hospital for 3 weeks with a broken leg.
(she was a patient)

But, if we are just talking about the building, or if we use an adjective, we use "a" or "the", following the normal rules.

She parked her car outside the hospital.
(she wasn't sick, so it's just a specific building)

She was in a really good hospital for 3 weeks.
(she was sick, but 'good' is an adjective)

Places in a town

For most shops or places in a town, we say "go to the" (because we imagine that there is only one, or that the listener knows which one we are talking about).

I'm going to the pet shop for some cat food.

With other verbs, we follow the normal rules. For example, we can say "a" when it is the first time it's mentioned, 'the' if the listener knows which one, or nothing if we are generalising.

There's a pet shop near here. (first mention)

I bought this from the pet shop. (you know the one I mean)

I love looking around pet shops. (pet shops in general)

If you can't remember the usual rules for articles, read about them here.

 

Now try these practice exercises to test yourself on a, an and the with buildings.