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She kisses them good night and puts them to bed.

In my opinion, "bed" is an countable noun, so there should be an article before "bed". What about "go to bed"? When "bed" has become an abstract noun, it doesn't mean "a piece of furniture", but means "go to sleep".Is that right? So how to understand "bed" in this sentence?

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3 Answers

You are right, bed is idiomatically used in an abstract way:

I put the kids to bed.

But also:

I went to bed early.

In this case, I might have slept in a sleeping bag in a tent, with no bed present.

When I say I am going to bed, this is usually understood as "I am going to sleep", even though there are many other things I could be doing in a bed.

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You could use an article if you used a different preposition:

She kisses them good night and puts them in a bed.

However, to bed is idiomatic, and requires no preposition.

English does that sometimes; here's another example:

She gives them a kiss and sends them to church.

The phrase to church usually means to the church one regularly attends, as in:

We will go to church tomorrow.

Just like go to bed really means go fall asleep, go to church means go worship with a congregation. (If my church was leveled by a tornado, and was temporarily meeting in a theater while they were constructing a new building, I would still say, "Let's go to church," even though we'd be driving to a theater.)

If we include an indefinite article, though, it seems to imply that we're visiting a church for the first time, or at least going someplace we don't attend regularly:

We go to a church tomorrow.

Also, the definitate article implies we are going to the building itself, but probably for some other reason than to worship:

Let's go to the church; I need to drop off some flowers.

If I read:

She kisses them good night and puts them in a bed.

I would assume that they were in some unfamiliar surroundings, and not sleeping in their own bed. Because to bed and in bed are idiomatic, this is one of those cases where including a preposition significantly changes the meaning.

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"school" is another good example of the same thing. Generally you'd say "I'm taking the children to school" not "to the school". –  Nigel Harper Feb 7 at 17:19
    
@Nigel - Exactly! Unless you were taking them there after hours, to, say, drop them off for a basketball game. Then it might be, "I'm taking Belinda to the school," because she's going the building, not to her classes. Great supplement; thanks! –  J.R. Feb 7 at 19:11
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It would be 'put to bed', because the phrase is used as a predicate, and the bed is not the subject noun, so the phrase does not need an article. Perhaps it could be used, but the article use in the phase is not needed

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I agree with your conclusion ("put them to bed" is fine), but I don't understand your reasoning. Surely you include articles in non-subject NPs on a regular basis? For example, in your answer you wrote "need an article", not "need article". –  snailplane Feb 8 at 5:50
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