I have problems with definite and zero articles in the following sentences:

  • "I met a man you were talking about over THE telephone yesterday."
  • "The wounded were examined by THE doctor and sent to PRISON."

These examples are from my textbook. The textbook says that these articles should be set this way. I don't understand why. Namely:

  • Why in the first sentence we use "the telephone" while in the second "prison" with zero article? Why are they different?
  • Is it grammatically correct to say "The wounded were examined by DOCTOR and sent to THE prison?" For example, in case the prison is before the eyes of a speaker.

I am looking for a strong grammatical reference. Simple rules-of-the-thumb proved to be inadequate, I cannot answer my doubts.


It might be helpful to read this question about doctors and this one about prisons.

We say "on the telephone" and "on the radio", but "on television". The answers to this question try to explain this curious discrepancy!

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