4

I want to apply for a job in the US in one or two years and now I'm trying to learn English grammar. I remember that I once read in a book the following sentences:

  1. I'm going home.
  2. I'm going to school.
  3. I'm going to the airport.

Could you explain to me please when I should use "to", "to the" or none of these? It was also explained that "the" is never used with home or school.

Also, please correct me if I made mistakes somewhere in the above text.

Thank you very much!

2

In addition to the issues regarding proper nouns mentioned in this question and its answers, there are some usage notes specific to the words you've asked about.

Home

I'm going home.

The speaker is going to their home.

I'm going to a home.

"A home" would be usually be interpreted as some sort of assisted living facility. A person with mental illness or an elderly individual may be put "in a home".

I'm going to the home.

I would not know what to make of this sentence. The home? Which home? What category of homes are we talking about that I would automatically know to which one you're referring? You mean your home? The home you put your grandfather in? What?

School

I'm going to school.

If the speaker appears to be leaving and heading elsewhere, then I would conclude that they are on their way to the school that they attend.

If the speaker is staying put, then I would take this to mean that they are enrolled in classes at a school.

I'm going to a school.

I would probably take this to mean that the speaker is enrolled in classes, but would find the phrasing a bit odd. I would likely ask them which school.

I'm going to the school.

Similar to 'home'. Which school? What are you talking about?

Perhaps this would make sense if there was a particular school that was obvious from context. You might also say this if you were going to a school building for a reason other than going to classes, in order to emphasize that distinction.

Airport

I'm going to airport.

This is definitely wrong, unless the speaker was actually referring to some place named 'Airport', like a bar or club.

My first instinct would be to ask if that was a street name.

I'm going to an airport.

This would be an odd thing to say, but would be understandable. It's odd, because one rarely wants to go to just any airport. It's not like a supermarket where you can find pretty the same stuff whichever one you go to. You need to go to the airport which has the flight for which you have tickets.

Maybe someone might say this if going to any airport fulfilled some interesting criteria, like maybe the first time they had been to any airport, or some fortune teller told them they'd meet their future spouse in an airport.

I'm going to the airport.

This is normally what people say. This is because there is usually only one nearby airport, which almost everyone in the region uses for all of their air travel.

If there were multiple airports nearby that one might potentially use, then you would use the airport's actual name instead.

  • This is a great answer! – DJMcMayhem May 9 '15 at 3:05
2

You are correct to omit an article with home, and to include one with airport.

The word school is a bit trickier, but it's not too hard to figure out once you realize that the word school can refer to two things: the instititution, and the building.

If you were at home, on your way out, and you announced:

I'm going to school.

that would mean that you're going to the school building for the purpose of attending class. However, if you include the article, you are referring to the school building:

I'm going to the school. Janie left her lunchbox there this afternoon. I should be back in about 20 minutes.


The same is true for the word church:

I'm going to church on Sunday.

Most likely, that means the speaker will attend a worship service. In contrast:

I'm going to the church on Sunday.

indicates the person is going to the building, but not necessarily to a service. I would not say it that way, unless I was going to the church for some other reason, like this:

I'm going to the church on Monday. I'm going to help Janet clean the carpets.

Much like school, the word church can refer the congregation, or to the church building. Use an article when you are talking about the building, but omit it when you are talking about the institution.

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.