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We go to (the) cinema

Discussion in 'English Only' started by grammer, Jul 23, 2009.

  1. grammer Senior Member

    I have heard that,
    1. We go to school(go to school as a student)
    2. We go to the school(go to school as a parent or for a visit)

    Using the above explanation :confused:

    Whats the different between

    1. We go to cinema.
    2. We go to the cinema.

    :arrow:Can we apply the same thing to this ? :confused:

    :arrow:How to use the with above type of sentences ? :confused:

    :arrow:Please explain with examples & about the grammertical side of it. :confused:

    Thanks.............. :)
  2. entangledbank

    entangledbank Senior Member

    English - South-East England
    The 'go to school' form (without 'the') is only used for a small number of words such as 'school', 'class', 'bed'. In BE, we say this with 'university' and 'hospital' too. I believe in AE they don't.

    For most words, use 'the' (go to the cinema/farm/shop/etc.)
  3. grammer Senior Member


    But I have heard that each sentence has got a seperate meaning with the use of "the". So can you be more specific with the examples & about the grammertical side of it ?
  4. xqby

    xqby Senior Member

    Oxnard, CA
    English (U.S.)
    There isn't a difference in meaning between "I go to the cinema" and "I go to cinema." The second one is wrong; it is not correct English. That is what entangledbank was saying.

    There are words which work with that format, but not many.
    "I go to college." (as a student)
    "I go to the college to eat at their cafeteria." (the location, not as a student)

    Neither "grammer" nor "grammertical" is a word. You want "grammar" and "grammatical."
    Last edited: Jul 23, 2009
  5. Hi, grammer,

    I don't believe there is a grammatical side to it (note spelling of 'grammatical' - the word is not an extension of your nickname).

    It's just a matter of usage. 'I go to school (a place of learning) to be educated'.

    'I go to the school at the top of the hill (a particular school)'.

    The same does not apply to 'cinema'. We say 'I go to the cinema twice a week (any cinema) or 'I go to the cinema near the fire station (a particular cinema)'.

  6. grammer Senior Member


    Can someone give me the full list of words that is not going with "the". Like school,hospital.
  7. entangledbank

    entangledbank Senior Member

    English - South-East England
    We go to breakfast/lunch/dinner; we go to bed; we go to school/work/church/jail; and in BE we go to university/hospital. There may be others: I looked for a list and found this of 'common' such nouns.
  8. oiseauxlahaut Member

    English & Hebrew
    In AE you can also say "go to university", like you would say "go to college".
    Go to school- high school, preschool, elementary school, middle school, kindergarten, graduate school, daycare are all included here.
    Also: go to class.
  9. Grumpy Old Man Senior Member

    I don't think anyone can give you a complete list. These are very common words:

    He still goes to school. (student)
    There is a school behind that hill. (building)
    His parents went to the school to see his teacher. (learning not involved)

    College and university behave in the same way grammatically. A lot of school terminology takes zero article: What time is class?

    He is in jail/prison. (a prisoner)
    He works in/at a jail.

    He is in [the] hospital. (a patient) Americans use the article.
    He works in/at a hospital. (It is possible to say at the hospital/jail if something warrants the definite article.)

    He went to bed early. He has been in bed all day.
    But: A cat was lying on the bed. He lay on the bed all day. (Not between the sheets.)

    He never attends church. John goes to church regularly. We are coming from church. (A divine service or something similar is meant.)
    He was standing in front of the church. (a building)
    He cannot go into the church now. (No religious activity is meant. Perhaps he was going to take some photographs.)

    Little logic is often applied to the use of articles in English. There are countless cases in which an article is omitted even though logic would have it. In tennis people say: He has match ball. (No article.) Ball is countable, so the plural s is used: He has two match balls.

    At Kennedy Space Center they announce: We have lift-off. (No article.)

    And so forth. We'll just have to accept the fact that the English dislike logic in the use of English just as they dislike it in many other things, like measurements, for example.

    There was a time when one pound was 20 shillings, one shilling was 12 pence, and a price tag in a shop window said that a portable radio cost 2 guineas. (One guinea was 21 shillings, but of course there were no guinea banknotes.:D)
  10. se16teddy

    se16teddy Senior Member

    London but from Yorkshire
    English - England
    I am sure that there is logic in this; otherwise speakers would get it wrong all the time. Is the point that you drop the article with institutions that are communities? went to jail, went to parliament etc.
  11. Grumpy Old Man Senior Member

    That must be the logic. The article is dropped with some institutions:
    He goes to church every Sunday.

    It is used with some institutions:
    He goes to the cinema every Sunday.

    PS My apologies for having other languages on my mind in my previous post. In English one says: He has match point. Not: match ball. English logic requires that no article be used even though point is countable: He has two match points.
  12. Forero Senior Member

    Houston, Texas, USA
    USA English
    There is a pattern, a sort of logic, to English usage, but I would not call it obvious or logically simple.

    I believe if the cinema were to become an institution, we would say "He goes to cinema on Saturday." But the cinema is not, in our culture at this time, an institution.

    Apparently a hospital is more of an institution in British culture than in American culture. In American culture, people in the hospital are (grammatically) like animals in the zoo or plants in the garden.

    We say "go to college", "in college", and "at college", but where I live, people do not usually say "go to university", and I have never heard "in university" or "at university". A person is "in college at a university".

    "In the university" is like "in the hospital" in BrE, not like "in hospital" in BrE or "in the hospital" in AmE. In other words, "the university" refers either to the place, the campus, or to a particular institution either recently mentioned or the only one in town.
  13. grammer Senior Member

    Thanks people...........

    does in university & at in university mean the same ?
  14. Dimcl Senior Member

    British Columbia, Canada
    Canadian English
    Yes, they mean the same.
  15. JulianStuart

    JulianStuart Senior Member

    Sonoma County CA
    English (UK then US)
    Who says language is logical ?:D Or indeed, as already noted, that any logic should be simple. Teddy has caught part of it. They nearly all describe the concept rather than the specific of what follows where the article might be (if the specific were being communicated) e.g. He went to bed. We don't know when or where or what kind of bed, and it's not part of the information that is intended to be communicated. This is so it can be distinguished from the specific : He went to the bed. Here it is a specific bed that is the information - the context will provide the details of the bed. Or He went to a bed. Here, one learns that there's more than one bed and all we are being told it that he went to one of them. Thus, these usages (or these "idioms") have developed where there is a three way possibility and three different meanings can be conveyed by having no article, a definite article or an indefinite article. If the "no-article" possibility did not exist, there would be a narrower range of communications possible (i.e. someone would invent the no-article version :D). This does raise the question of what "concepts" is it used with - and which ones sound weird. Then one must learn the usage of a language and its idioms.
    Idiom : a manner of speaking that is natural to native speakers of a language OR
    an expression whose meanings cannot be inferred from the meanings of the words that make it up
  16. grammer Senior Member

  17. EdisonBhola Senior Member

    Can we say "go to a cinema" if it's mentioned for the first time?

    e.g. Last week, my friend and I went to a cinema to watch a film. In the cinema, we saw...
    Last edited: Oct 9, 2014
  18. Andygc

    Andygc Senior Member

    British English
    Yes. There's nothing special about 'cinema' when using articles.
  19. EdisonBhola Senior Member

    The reason I asked that question is that some people say it's always "go to the cinema" and never "go to a cinema", even if it's mentioned for the first time. It's like we say "talk on the phone" and never "talk on a phone". I don't know if they are right.
  20. Andygc

    Andygc Senior Member

    British English
    There is nothing whatsoever wrong with saying "I went to a cinema". It describes where you went. You didn't go to a restaurant, you didn't go to a theatre, you went to a cinema. However, if you mean "I went to see a film" then you say "I went to the cinema". The posts in this thread are about using the definite article or no article, not about using the indefinite article. entangledbank's post was written in that context.
  21. Forero Senior Member

    Houston, Texas, USA
    USA English
    It is indeed like "talk on the phone" (and "go to the office", "go to the beach", etc.).

    But it is not true that we never say "talk on a phone" (or "go to a cinema", "go to an office", "go to a beach", etc.).

    The article the does not necessarily mean that something has been mentioned before. It only means that it needs no further qualification than is already provided. In the case of "go to the cinema", it does not matter what cinema one goes to, the experience of going "to the cinema" is understandable by itself.

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