4

In the following sentence:

I don't think I can make it back to camp—you go on without me!

Source

I would expect it to be "to the camp".

3
  • 1
    "...English is my fourth language" - no need to brag ;)
    – BruceWayne
    Jul 18 at 14:21
  • I didn't know I was bragging... I just said that to add some context. You folks living in the West have some serious issues to handle ;)
    – enet
    Jul 18 at 14:37
  • Thank you BruceWayne, I was merely joking as well, but on a second thought it seems to me that there may be some grain of truth in what you said. I'll remove the incriminating evidence...
    – enet
    Jul 18 at 15:04

2 Answers 2

18

For historical reasons, some words for places don't always require an article. "Camp" is one of those words. All of these are correct, for instance:

  1. My father is at church.
  2. Joe got sent back to jail.
  3. Sally's in hospital again.

There's a special rule that governs this usage though: the article is only optional if the place is being used for its intended purpose. This means that in sentence 1, my father is attending religious services at the church, not using the recreation facilities; in sentence 2 that Joe is a criminal, not a prison worker; and in sentence 3 that Sally is a patient of the hospital, not a visitor or a staff person.

In your example, it means the two people in the story are using the camp as a camp. And if it was, for example, an abandoned camp, and they were just meeting some people there, then they would have to say:

I don't think I can make it back to the camp

18
  • 12
    Americans tend to say 'in the hospital', I have noticed. Jul 17 at 16:01
  • 2
    @MichaelHarvey Yes, "hospital" doesn't completely follow these rules in all varieties of English.
    – gotube
    Jul 17 at 16:03
  • 4
    Actually, "hospital" is excellent proof of your claim because it illustrates that history is what counts here rather than some logical principle. Jul 17 at 16:33
  • Any particular citation for this rule? (Not that I doubt it, just interested.)
    – chepner
    Jul 18 at 1:33
  • 1
    @d_b It's not quite the same, though, is it? ‘Conservative Party Conference’ is a proper noun, but it still takes an article — why would the article be dropped when shortening it?
    – gidds
    Jul 18 at 18:39
4

In such constructions, the determiner is optional. Sometimes it depends on the context and whether you are referring to a particular camp.

Back to camp/base/headquarters are all general descriptions rather than particular locations.

If you were referring to a particular camp or base, you would need the determiner.

Equally, you would need the determiner in phrases such as back to the office/factory/stadium/sports ground because you would be referring to particular locations.

8
  • 1
    In this example though, they are referring to a specific camp.
    – gotube
    Jul 17 at 16:00
  • 1
    @gotube True, but it's one of those examples where the determiner is optional, possibly as an established expression, as in Let's head back to camp/base.. The meaning is the same with or without it. Jul 17 at 16:06
  • 1
    Your answer says we need the determiner in the OP's example sentence, but we do not.
    – gotube
    Jul 17 at 16:29
  • 1
    @Lambie "If you were referring to a particular camp or base, you would need the determiner." This is a particular camp, but we don't need the determiner, so this claim is false
    – gotube
    Jul 17 at 16:36
  • 1
    I would have said there are two cases: (1) the location is contextually implicit, e.g. the only camp the speaker could be referring to is their own or (2) when what is being conveyed is the state of being in the location, e.g. "Alice is in hospital/school/prison". Jul 18 at 12:11

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .