when to eliminate "the"

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Hello,

Why do we say "go to the office", for example, but "go to church" without using the word "the"?

thank you so much!
 

rewboss

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The rule is simple at first sight: we consider "church" as an activity, while "office" is a building or a room.

That seems simple, but why is "church" an activity and "office" isn't? The answer is: it's in the mind of the native speaker.

We can differentiate:

"I am going to church" means that I am going to participate in worship (including all the hymn-singing and praying); "I am going to the church" means that I am going to a specific building -- I may not be going there to worship, I could just have arranged to meet somebody there, for example.

The same is true of "school". You go to school to learn, but you go to the school to speak with the headmaster, or to bring your children home.

But we don't consider an office to be an activity in the same way. However, what we do in an office is (normally) work, and that's the activity: "I go to the office" or "I go to work".
 

belly_ttt

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Hm.... But I think the rule doesn't apply for AmE because it always omit the in such sentences
 

RonBee

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I agree with Rewboss's explanation. It makes sense to me.

:)
 

apex2000

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Interestingly this has cropped up in other questions. Whilst the above answer is reasoned it is not as easy as that.
Consider:
We are going to the church fete. (activity)
I am going to the school football game. (activity)
They are both locations but they are also activities that I could be participating in.
That is why I do not believe that we can set out a hard and fast rule. It is, as has been said, a manner of speech, something that we acquire and other learners will have some difficulty with.
 

sarat_106

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I am not a professional teacher in true sense. I think the answer given by rewboss is correct. However, bringing the term "activity" for the purpose of interpretation was not necessary, rather it may add to confusion. For example, if you call Church and school to be "activity", in the same token office can not be called simply a building. Therefore the rule is that sometimes we use the article and sometimes we do not. It often depends on the context. Watch the following sentences:
I go to office every day at 10'o clock. (Here I participate in the work of the office)
My friend goes to the office to collect some information.(My friend goes to office for a specific purpose)
 

apex2000

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I am not a professional teacher in true sense. I think the answer given by rewboss is correct. However, bringing the term "activity" for the purpose of interpretation was not necessary, rather it may add to confusion. For example, if you call Church and school to be "activity", in the same token office can not be called simply a building. Therefore the rule is that sometimes we use the article and sometimes we do not. It often depends on the context. Watch the following sentences:
I go to office every day at 10'o clock. (Here I participate in the work of the office)
My friend goes to the office to collect some information.(My friend goes to office for a specific purpose)
And this shows the difficulty you are facing.
In both your sentences 'the office' is the only right answer.
If you wish to explore this further, please do so.
 
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