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"to hospital" vs "to the hospital"

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"to hospital" vs "to the hospital"

Postby hcbowman » Thu Jul 14, 2005 10:02 am

In the coverage of the London bombings, I noticed that the British say "to hospital." In American English, we say "to school" more often than "to the school," but we tend to retain the "the" in "to the hospital." What is at work here?

Thanks,

Cliff
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Postby Brazilian dude » Thu Jul 14, 2005 12:22 pm

An article.

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Postby anders » Thu Jul 14, 2005 12:33 pm

Just a few hours ago, I had to make several decisions in Swedish whether to use the definite or indefinite form in translating. I think that I more often than my fellow man (sorry, 'fellow person') use the indefinite form when not refering to a very specific instance but more to a general sort of thing.

One reason might be that I want to have the reader of the manual in question think independently and in a more general manner than just that single case that is the immediate concern.

I'm quite sure, though, that it is impossible for me to state a hard and fast rule on when I use one or the other.

Adressing the OP, I suppose that the Britishers were more concerned with that the persons really were brought to (a) hospital, than with inferring that they arrived at any specific one.
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Postby tcward » Thu Jul 14, 2005 12:56 pm

We also say gone to the store, not 'gone to store' -- for that, we'd say 'gone shopping'. Do you hear the difference in meaning?

The to school example is a bit different.

If you say someone has 'gone to school', it means they have gone as part of their scheduled class time.

If you say someone has 'gone to the school', in indicates that the trip was not made as part of their scheduled class time.

At least to me.

-Tim
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Postby hcbowman » Thu Jul 14, 2005 1:41 pm

Is this strictly a case of definite versus indefinite reference?

One says, "I take the bus to school," even though he probably has a definite school in mind.

In cities where there are numerous good hospitals, one could still say "I'm hurt! Please take me to the hospital!" without necessarily implying a particular one.

Maybe I'm still missing something?

Tim's regularity distinction really interests me ("I went to school" vs "I went to the school"), but are there other examples? I can't think of any offhand...

Thanks!

--Cliff
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Postby Stargzer » Thu Jul 14, 2005 4:21 pm

I agree with Tim that to school, in school, and at school imply that one is attending classes. To the school, in the school, and at the school imply that one is at a particular school/building.

Telephone conversations:

"May I speak with Sarah?"
"No, she's at school right now." ==> Implies that Sarah is in class, either learning or teaching or doing some other work. This is similar to "No, she's at work right now."


"May I speak with Sarah?"
"No she's up at the school right now." ==> Implies that Sarah is somewhere on the school grounds. She could be playing or coaching a sport, in an after-school club, attending a parent-teacher conference or other meeting, or, like my fool wife, doing some non-paid work on a weekend, such as putting up a new bulletin board, because they won't give her time to do it during the week. :wink:
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Postby Apoclima » Fri Jul 15, 2005 2:55 pm

I think that Larry and Tim are on to something.

I think it is the amount of abstraction from the physical object.

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Postby tcward » Fri Jul 15, 2005 4:52 pm

Telephone rings.

Ms. Jones: "Hello?"

Mindy: "Hi, Ms. Jones! This is Mindy. Is Terri home?"

Ms. Jones: "Mindy... What are you doing home? Aren't you supposed to be in school today?"

Mindy: "No, my school has a teacher workday today."

Ms. Jones: "Oh, well, Terri's in school today, on a field trip to the science museum."

Mindy: "Well, just tell her I called when she gets home, then. Thanks!"


So, in this example, artificial though it may be, Terri was in school, but not at the school... I think you're definitely onto something with the "abstraction" idea, Sitran!

-Tim
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Postby M. Henri Day » Sat Sep 10, 2005 4:08 pm

Tim, what would happen if, mutatis mutandi, you replaced «school» in your examples above with «hospital» ? I think hcbowman is quite right in suspecting that what we see here are dialectal differences between standard speech in the US and the UK, respectively. A person in the UK who's suffered a heart infarct and not yet been discharged is still «in hospital», whereas a person in the same situation in the US is still «in the hospital». «School», however, can be used without the article in both places - interestingly enough, an attribute it shares with «prison»....

Henri
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Postby tcward » Tue Sep 13, 2005 11:49 am

Oh, I completely agree that these are dialectical differences.

As for the hospital reference:

A person in the UK who's suffered a heart infarct and not yet been discharged is still «in hospital», whereas a person in the same situation in the US is still «in the hospital».


Here, I realized that I would be more likely to say "hospitalized" or "being hospitalized".

But my frame of reference may be circumspect here. I used to work at a hospital and knew other people who worked at the hospital, so "in the hospital" meant something entirely different than "being hospitalized" for those people.

-Tim
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Postby M. Henri Day » Tue Sep 13, 2005 1:55 pm

tcward wrote:...

I used to work at a hospital and knew other people who worked at the hospital, ...


A regular extrovert you are !...

Henri (who also has been know to work in hospitals...)
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Postby carolene » Thu Sep 22, 2005 4:56 pm

I've noticed people recently saying "go to prom" instead of "go to the prom" as I've always heard it. I don't get this.
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Postby tcward » Thu Sep 22, 2005 4:58 pm

Welcome, carolene!

That's a new one on me, too!

-Tim
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Postby Stargzer » Fri Sep 23, 2005 12:11 am

carolene wrote:I've noticed people recently saying "go to prom" instead of "go to the prom" as I've always heard it. I don't get this.


It's been a very long time since I went to a prom, but only a couple of years since my youngest went to the prom.
Regards//Larry

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Postby M. Henri Day » Fri Sep 23, 2005 7:48 am

carolene wrote:I've noticed people recently saying "go to prom" instead of "go to the prom" as I've always heard it...


Welcome to the Agora, carolene - and thanks for forwarding your very interesting observation ! Have you noticed any geographic or social distinctions between those you've heard say «go to prom» and those who say «go to the prom» ?...

Henri
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