article A/AN, the, zero article and prepositions IN/AT/ON


New Member
hi, i'm italian and i'm trying to improve my english skills analyzing a lot of difficult cases.
i'll try to be as accurate as possible. these are some cases:
- "I work at the post office" or "at post office" - abt the prepositions i think we can use "at" and not "to" because the verb work needs "at" and because it's a precise location. i think we can use "to" if the verb is "to go".
- "see you at the post office" or "at post office", but i think we can use "to/in" depending on where exactly we are meaning.
- "we are going to the/0 post office". no problem <about> proposition because "to go" needs "to".
these problems are frequently found when we talk about buildings but also with geographic places.
now i tell you what common english books says about rules:
- if i indicate a building for its function i must use zero article ("i work at post office"), in case i'm referring to the building as its specific existence we must use "the". here i have a problem: my book has this example: "you can buy stamps at the post office". why should i use "at" instead of "to" if i can go to whatever post office in the city? it's not a precise location. and why should i use "the"? (is he referring to a specific post office and not to the function postal service?).

about the geographic places here it is an example: "i live on the/0 western/west coast" - "i live at the coast" - "i live on the/0 coast". here the problems regards both the preposition and the article because coast can be precise location or not.

hope to have been clear enough, thanks in advance.
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  • Keith Bradford

    Senior Member
    English (Midlands UK)
    Sorry, you have taken an example that works for some words (school, church) and applied it to one where it doesn't work (post office). You can never use post office as a noun without the article.

    I go to school, I study at school. :tick:
    I walk to church, I pray at church. :tick:


    I go to the factory, I'm employed at the factory.
    I travel to the post office, I buy stamps at the/a post office.


    New Member
    ooooook! thank you. and what about "office". it's the same. it needs always "the"?
    and what about the west coast or coast? because english book for group of islands, mountain range, deserts, canals, oceans and seas, rivers wants the "the" article. while for islands (sicily) continents (asia) cities, lakes, plazas and streets, parks wants "zero article". i think the difference is on the singolar or plural/colletive nouns. but it's not clear. anyway in this case i don't know if coast/west coast needs article or not. i'd always use "the" with western coast, but i don't know i'd use it for "coast"

    Sparky Malarky

    English - US
    Always the office, unless you're specifying my office, your office, his office or similar. "In office" means serving a term as an elected offical. The budget was balanced when Bill Clinton was in office.

    Sparky Malarky

    English - US
    Also, you said:

    - if i indicate a building for its function i must use zero article ("i work at post office"),

    This is not true. "I work at the post office." "I work at the post office branch on Main Street." "I work at a post office in a small town."
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