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I read a sentence in an English Textbook. In the sentence, is it grammatically correct to use 'the' before the word 'school'? Please explain to me.

Her school is near her home. The school starts at 9:00 in the morning and finishes at 3:00 in the afternoon.

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  • Why do you think that's wrong? In general, what do you think yourself?
    – Cardinal
    Commented May 29, 2019 at 14:08
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    I think it is not correct. It should be 'School starts...'.
    – thein lwin
    Commented May 29, 2019 at 14:38
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    "The school" makes it clear it is her specific school, and not just any school.
    – Smock
    Commented May 29, 2019 at 16:03
  • Yes,either way, but they mean two different things.
    – Lambie
    Commented Jul 6, 2020 at 15:19

3 Answers 3

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Certain institutions (eg school, college, prison, and in Britain but not America hospital) are often used without an article when it refers to the institution and its activities, rather than just the building.

So "I'm going to school" means that I am going to take part in the institution that is a school, probably as a pupil or a teacher. "I'm going to the school" means that I'm going to the place that is a school, but not as a participant (student or teacher) in its institutional activities.

The activity you are talking about that starts at 9 is the usual institutional activity of the school, so "School starts at 9:00" would be the usual way to say it.

"The school starts at 9:00" is unusual, but possible if you are contrasting it with something else.

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The articles are my favorite part of Grammar. There are a lot to them. Although there is no very clear cut "rules" to know when to use which, for a good number of cases we can stick to the following criteria:

Rule 1: If the noun (or the noun phrase) is known to you or that's a specific noun or you expect that the readers know what it is, we use the definite article.

Rule 2: If we do not talk about a specific thing, and if the noun is countable, we use the indefinite article.

Rule 3: If we do not talk about a specific thing, and if the noun is uncountable, we use the zero article.

Please, bear in mind that, those rules are very general and there are many exceptions and cases that can invalidate them.


In terms of your question, since the school is introduced in the first sentence, you have to use the definite article.


Lets investigate the other two possibilities:

Her school is near her home. School starts at 9:00 in the morning and finishes at 3:00 in the afternoon.

If you remove the article, it opens the door for ambiguity. For instance, a zero article is justifiable in a context as :

I like going to school.

Here, school implies a very general idea about the school or it's an abstract noun. Thus, as @WendyG pointed out in the comment section, using a zero article would create a sense of ambiguity since it wouldn't be clear about which school you are talking. It can be her school or a any other schools.

The next option is using the indefinite article, a:

Her school is near her home. A school starts at 9:00 in the morning and finishes at 3:00 in the afternoon.

This, though being grammatically correct, makes the two sentences look incongruous. The first sentence and the second sentence are two separate and uncorrelated sentences. First says some thing about her school, the second one is a factual sentence about the typical working hours of the schools.


Side note: This answer is open to everyone for edits and suggestions, especially native speakers of English.

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    "Her school is near her home. School starts at 9:00 in the morning and finishes at 3:00 in the afternoon." this doesn't tell you which school opens at 9, it could be her school but it could just be schools in general
    – WendyG
    Commented May 29, 2019 at 15:51
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    [If we does not talk about??] There is only the, an/a and the null set.
    – Lambie
    Commented Jul 6, 2020 at 14:22
  • @Lambie LoL thank you for letting me know of that error. Yes, you are right! I was talking about those three cases.
    – Cardinal
    Commented Jul 6, 2020 at 18:24
  • I see you have not bothered to correct does to do in your question.
    – Lambie
    Commented Jul 6, 2020 at 19:47
  • @Lambie Thank's I'll fix them tonight.
    – Cardinal
    Commented Jul 6, 2020 at 20:34
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Your the is acceptable but redundant. It's only necessary if we don't know it is her school.

When one says, "School starts at 8 a.m.," they actually mean and are saying, "Classes at the school start at 8 a.m." We are not talking about The School. We are talking about The Classes or the Learning. The classes are not called The School. They are called School.

If you say, "I went to the school," you wish to convey which school you went to. If you say, "I went to school," you wish to convey you received some education.

The School is not something that starts nor is A School. Only The Classes, commonly called School, start.

Her school is near her home. School starts at 8 a.m. There is no ambiguity. We know which school.

There are some instances where saying a school or the school might work. If you want to specify that the school is hers, as in your example. You would then use the the to indicate that it is hers.

"The school near her home starts at 8 a.m."

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  • I see your point, but I would argue that's not what standard English looks like. "Redundancy" (based on my experiences) is highly relative and subjective and somehow not a major concern in the standard English which is the first priority of the learners like myself.
    – Cardinal
    Commented Jul 7, 2020 at 2:37
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    @Cardinal If context has been provided, which it must if one is to say something like, "School starts at....", then 'the' is not needed and since context must always be provided 'the' is not used. Using 'the' redundantly surely can be overlooked among learners. All manner of slight usage incongruities can be overlooked. I surely didn't want to come across as pedantic.
    – EllieK
    Commented Jul 7, 2020 at 12:35

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