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I'm not a native speaker, so while learning articles came across this example from an English speaker. He just told that natives discern them and one of them sounds "cooler". Could anybody explain, please, if you see the difference...

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  • I've never heard the used with hell, except as part of metaphorical phrases like the hell that is dinner with family. – Barmar Apr 2 '15 at 18:46
  • "Journey to Hell" would be idiomatic. "Journey to the hell" would leave people wondering what the hell you were talking about. "Hell" (with leading capital) is a proper name, and one does not generally use "the" ahead of a proper name. – Hot Licks Apr 2 '15 at 19:11
  • on COCA there are 106 pages of "the Hell" used in sentences; I must hasten to add many of them are duplicates, and each page contains 100 or so sentences. – Abe Apr 2 '15 at 19:29
  • I wouldn't look too much into it, but 'the' usage could be for emphasis? The hell, as if the nadir of a given experience, worst of its kind etc. as opposed to a regular hell which we've all grown up relating to as the ultimate place of damnation, also indicative of a bad experience. So 'hell,' a really bad experience but not the worst ever vs 'THE hell,' the worst experience ever of its kind. – Andy Semyonov Apr 2 '15 at 19:41
  • I think still now, that bobro is right. Journey to hell sounds scarier. The question is not about hell vs. the hell, but JOURNEY TO (THE) HELL – AndyLL Apr 2 '15 at 19:54
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When you say "hell", it is a reference to Hell, from religious stories. So, when you say "journey to hell", it sounds stronger, because it is like you are calling the place you are going to "Hell".

When you say "the hell", it sounds as if you are referring to some specific hell. Which hell? See Barmar's example above. The sense of it is really "hellish place".

It doesn't really make too much sense, because you would think that Hell would be the one that is "the Hell".

The expression that fits what many non-native speakers would think of as "the hell" is "hell itself".

You can also say "journey to hell itself". And that's pretty cool, especially if you are referring to some event. "That party was hell itself".

But your friend is right- "journey to hell" does sound the coolest.

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"The hell" is about a specific hell:

A Brief History of the Artist from God to Picasso - Page 49 Paul Barolsky - 2010

As much as we dwell on Dante's status as pilgrim journeying toward God, he never allows us to forget that he is a poet, that his pilgrimage is the creation of poetic fantasia, which gives shape to the hell, purgatory, and paradise he envisions ...

In this case it's "the specific hell that he envisions," his personal version of the generic/general hell that is usually contrasted to paradise/heavens.

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