John: Where did the boys go last last Saturday?
Mary: They went to ________.
(A) town (B) the town (C) a town
All the above options seem acceptable, don't they?
What's the difference in meaning between the three options?
They went to town
- they live in the suburbs or on a farm, and they went to the nearest town.
They went to the town.
- We must have been speaking about a specific town earlier. Maybe it was Temple City. If it was, then THAT is THE town they went to. Using the definitive article means you are specifying which specific, definitive town.
They went to a town.
- They were just driving along and decided they panted pizza so they pulled in at any old town that happened to come along. Using the indifinite article "a" = "any" - we don't know (and probably don't care) which town they went to; the important thing is that they went to A town.