2

He moved across town to stay with his father.

Why don't we use "a" or "the" in these situations. As:

He moved across the town to stay with his father.

1
  • There's a common theme to a lot of your questions--namely, why do we casually omit some words from some sentences?. The answer is nearly always the same: because we are lazy; and because decades of experience show us that we are almost always understood correctly without them... – jimbobmcgee Jul 10 '19 at 20:50
1

He moved across town and he moved across the town can both be valid sentences, but they do not mean the same thing.

Town is a very old word and has numerous different uses, some which are countable, and some which are not. When used without an article, town usually refers to the population center where one is located, or which is nearest. This sense of town is not necessarily defined by any political subdivision or jurisdiction; it can simply mean an area which is more urbanized or more densely populated than the surrounding area, or of the civil population as distinguished from those associated with a university, military installation, or other large but closed community.

As Macmillan has it:

  1. [uncountable] the place that you live in, or the place that you are talking about

    He moved to another part of town.

I could live in a residential neighborhood of Washington, D.C. like Cleveland Park, but still speak of heading into town for a meeting, meaning to travel to the central business district. This is entirely idiomatic even though Washington is a major city, not a town, and even if I am already starting out inside its geographic or political boundaries. A political candidate might be coming to town for a rally, and I might go to the other side of town to avoid crowds when he is in town, or I might get out of town altogether and visit friends in New York

This usage does not extend uniformly to other geographic terms. You can move across country, but someone on an international trip is out of the country, for example. State can sometimes be used in this way in the U.S., e.g. vacationing out of state or getting in-state tuition. But the zero article does not really work in this sense with city, borough, or district, among others.


He moved across the town is grammatical, but would be unusual to hear. I would probably interpret move as indicating some kind of motion, as opposed to relocation, and the town as referring to a specific political subdivision that has previously been referenced, rather than the place where I am. I imagine monitoring someone with a tracking device as he goes from district to district throughout the day.

He moved across a town is similarly grammatical, but would be even more unusual, and I cannot think of any reasons why one would say it. If there is a specific town in mind, you would say the town; if the town is unknown or unimportant, but you know it is a population center, you would say town.

2
  • Thank you. If a person is living in a real town, does he use "town" without articles? – Talha Özden Jul 11 '19 at 7:22
  • 1
    As I noted, this sense of town is unrelated to whatever the local settlement is called or how it is classified or governed. If I move from the north end to the south end of the Town of Auburn, Massachusetts, then yes, I would still say I moved across town. If it's a fixed expression. – choster Jul 11 '19 at 12:26
2

They are very similar, but I'm going to try to find the differences (even if slight).

across town would probably be used if the person being spoken to is familiar with which town you're speaking of, or maybe if you're speaking in a local sense. It's generally used with the town you live in.

across the town would probably be used if you're speaking of a town which was previously mentioned and might not be the one which you live in.

across a town would only make sense if you're not speaking of a specific town (as the article entails) but rather any town which could be traveled across.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.