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Can the expression "in town" (with the zero article) be used as the opposite of "in the country"?

I've found some examples in the Oxford Living Dictionaries, but still not quite sure that the expressions "in town" and "in the town" can be used interchangeably:

In town, most women do domestic chores and child care while their husbands are at work.

In town particular care is needed because cyclists and pedestrians may not hear it coming.

In town, when you're walking along a road, you don't make eye contact.

In town is another story, as its massive bulk can make it unwieldy in tight parking areas.

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    Absolutely. That's the customary way of saying that.
    – Robusto
    Jul 11, 2017 at 17:32
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    +1 @Robusto and as a side note, the second expression with the zero article takes the meaning "within the country's borders". "In town" can also mean "here in our town" as opposed to some other town: "There's a market in town today." Jul 11, 2017 at 17:39
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    Or "here in this town" : Is there a place in town that serves a decent breakfast?
    – TimR
    Jul 11, 2017 at 19:52
  • Since "in the town" is in question, you should add examples using it.
    – user3169
    Jul 12, 2017 at 2:59
  • This question covers covers the opposite of "in town" just in case someone is interested To live in village or on country?
    – ColleenV
    Jul 12, 2017 at 19:18

2 Answers 2

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Technically, yes.

In English, 'country' is used in (predominantly) two different ways- it means a nation-state, or it means a rural area. As such, an urban area (or town) would be antithetical to a rural area, or country. As such, they would be opposite statements, as they are rural vs urban.

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I agree with Imperator that rural areas are referred to as "country" (e.g., "My mother retired to the country.") In this context, the opposite of "country" would be "city" (just like the opposite of "rural" is "urban"). However, "town" is also used to refer to suburbs, which are neither urban nor rural.

Within a rural or suburban area, "town" can refer to the business district. In the popular book Little House on the Prairie by Laura Ingalls Wilder, Laura and her sisters go to school "in town" (where the stores and lumber mill are) from their homestead farm. This usage is consistent with your last three sentences:

In town particular care is needed because cyclists and pedestrians may not hear it coming.

In town, when you're walking along a road, you don't make eye contact.

In town is another story, as its massive bulk can make it unwieldy in tight parking areas.

Your first sentence seems odd to me (a native speaker of American English):

In town, most women do domestic chores and child care while their husbands are at work.

To answer your question, I would not consider "in town" to be the opposite of "in the country". To me, at least, "in town" might be the opposite of "on the outskirts" (which would include the country and sparsely populated residential areas). The expression "downtown" can also be used in place of "In town" in your last three sentences.

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