back to <the ?> camp

Discussion in 'English Only' started by Negina, Nov 12, 2011.

  1. Negina Senior Member

    Hi everyone! How do we explain the omission of a definite article 'the' before the noun used after the preposition 'back to'? E.g.
    I was returning back to camp.
    I feel like going back to bed.
    back to basics

    The last two are set expressions, I think. But what about the first one? I think 'back to the camp' would not be a mistake. But why is it used without the article here? I mean, it sounds right, but why? Thanks in advance!
  2. LV4-26

    LV4-26 Senior Member

    The presence of back doesn't make any difference, I think.
    It's just that bed and (to a lesser degree) camp are words that can often be used without an article.
    e.g. I'm going to bed.
    I spent all day in bed.
    See? No back and no article.

    I went back to the gym. :tick:
    I went back to gym. :cross:
  3. Negina Senior Member

    Thanks for your reply, LV4! That's it! Like I've posted 'go to bed' is kind of a set expression. But camp? I think it's just the same as 'gym'...
  4. LV4-26

    LV4-26 Senior Member

    I'm not sure about camp. But I'm not really surprised to see it used without the article.
    I think there's a movie that's called Ernest goes to camp.

    I've seen welcome to camp as well.

    On the other hand, the song in Tommy is Welcome to the camp. Could that be an AE/BE difference?
    Last edited: Nov 12, 2011
  5. Parla Member Emeritus

    New York City
    English - US
    That's because it's not any old generic camp but a particular camp.
  6. LV4-26

    LV4-26 Senior Member

    Thanks, Parla. That figures.
  7. ribran

    ribran Senior Member

    Austin, Texas
    English - American
    Hi, LV4.

    You know, your second sentence isn't strictly ungrammatical, but it would only work if you were at school and your class for that period were gym/P.E. "Sorry, I can't talk long. I have to get back to gym."

    Anyway, camp is often used without an indefinite article in AE.

    We returned to camp just before sunset.
    Have you ever been to summer camp?
    Last edited: Nov 13, 2011
  8. Andygc

    Andygc Senior Member

    British English
    There are effectively two meanings to words like bed and camp. They can be a specific location - I'm going to my bed, I'm going to the camp - or a wider concept. That is, bed is a place you sleep, camp is a place you cook over a fire, sleep in a tent etc - I'm going to bed, I'm going back to camp. You probably find camp without the article less commonly in BE because we don't have camp in quite the same way as the Americans. I believe that summer camp is a popular activity in the USA - something of an institution, it certainly features in The Simpsons - whereas organised camping in the UK is on a much smaller scale and is not an institution. If a Brit was going back to his tent on a camp site, I would not expect to hear "I'm going back to camp", but I would not be surprised to hear a Scout say, "I'm going back to camp". The one BE group that does regularly use the "I'm going back to camp" structure is servicemen, where camp means the Army barracks or the RAF station where the serviceman is stationed.
  9. LV4-26

    LV4-26 Senior Member

    Thanks, Andygc.
    Yes, I did suspect there was some sort of cultural difference here, in the sense that (summer/holiday) camps seem to be more of a "cultural highlight" in the US than they are in the UK.
  10. Negina Senior Member

    Thanks! I'll need some time to process it though :)

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