Swan provides the following examples (Second editions/unit 134/2):

Will you come and visit me in hospital when I have my operation?

According to the dictionary, hospital is a singular count noun, so we should use an article before one. But we didn't. Why?

  • 2
    This is a British English vs American English difference. In America we do use an article. – Jim Jan 3 '15 at 5:09
  • 4
    Other nouns that are used similarly include work, school, college, university, jail, prison, and church (and more.) They often describe a physical location at which a person plays a specific role. As has been mentioned, hospital (and university, I believe) are two with British vs American differences in article usage. – Jason Patterson Jan 3 '15 at 5:24

It is a matter of different English styles. "in hospital" is more likely BrE, while Americans say "in a/the hospital" instead. Following link sheds light on it.


Will you come and visit me in (the) hospital when I have my operation?

So to answer, it depends which style you are speaking.

Hope this would help.

| improve this answer | |
  • 6
    We'd use "in the hospital" in this instance. – Jim Jan 3 '15 at 5:11
  • 1
    @Jim Who is "we"? All native English speakers? – user6951 Jan 3 '15 at 6:55
  • -1 Americans do not say 'in a hospital' in this context, but 'in the hospital'. Plus, an 'anarthrous phrase' describes a phrase, it doesn't determine the phrase. – user6951 Jan 3 '15 at 6:59
  • Where can I find a doctor? In a hospital. I think this may also have to do with whether the person is from a large city that has many hospitals or not. – NickNo Mar 1 '15 at 18:34

Will you come and visit me in hospital when I have my operation?

We don't use an article before certain nouns (places) when we talk about being at the place for its 'normal purpose'.

These include many everyday places, incuding

in bed
in/at church
in class
at/in college
in court
at home
in hospital (British English; Americans say 'in the hospital')
in prison
in/at school
at sea (Compare "on board" a ship, train, aircraft, etc)
in town
at university (British English, but 'at the university' is also used in BrE, and is the norm for American English)
at work

If you go to one of these places 'as a participant' you also leave out the article. But we don't *'go to home' in standard English. And 'go to town' also means, informallly, 'perform or do thoroughly, etc.'

I adapted a list found in Oxford guide to english grammar (1994, 2002) by John Eastwood. Regarding university the author writes:

(studying) at university, go to university (to study); But at/to the university is also possible and is normal in the USA.

| improve this answer | |
  • 1
    In British English, I've only ever heard "at the university" used to describe physical location. "I'm at university" means "I'm a student"; "I'm at the university" means "I'm in that building where all the students are." Similarly, "I'm in hospital" means "I'm a patient", whereas "I'm in the hospital" means "I'm in that building where all the sick people are." – David Richerby Jan 3 '15 at 12:26
  • 1
    @DavidRicherby Actually it is Oxford guide to english grammar, John Eastwood, 2002. I'll add his exact words to my answer, since they differ from your experience. – user6951 Jan 3 '15 at 20:13

I have something to say what I had read somewhere in PEU by Swan.

We don't use articles for these things - to/at/in/from school/university/college, church, prison, hospital

Swan is an English author. In BrE, they don't use the article and that's the reason the sentence from Swan's PEU does not incclude the article.

However, in the hospital is not incorrect!

So, you can omit/put the article. Both are correct.

Will you come and visit me in (the)^ hospital when I have my operation?

Swan's PEU entry 70.1 describes (thanks Damkerng)

In AmE, university and hospital are not used without articles

The examples follow:

She was unhappy at the hospital
Say that again and I'll put you in the hospital


| improve this answer | |
  • If you have Practical English Usage (PEU by Swan), which you have, check out PEU 70. Swan explains the difference between in hospital and in the hospital clearly in the entry 70.1 common expressions without articles. In the same entry, he also mentions AmE usage. I'd say that what you stated about PEU is inaccurate and/or incomplete. His explanation is already sufficient. – Damkerng T. Jan 4 '15 at 1:04
  • @DamkerngT. I did not refer to PEU by Swan. I said, what I remember. I'll complete the note once it's accessible (I'm out these days!) – Maulik V Jan 4 '15 at 4:45

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.