One oddity in the difference between UK and American usage is that Americans say "I went to the hospital" but British people say "I went to hospital".

Is there an explanation for this grammatical divergence? Does it have a name?

  • In America, people mostly have a specific general practitioner to see first when they get ill. So, people know who they are going to see when they say it. I don't think all Americans say "I went to the hospital.", though.
    – user140086
    Sep 30, 2015 at 4:08
  • 3
    There are a number of examples of the/( ) hospital on the site, including a fairly old one which might answer this question.
    – Andrew Leach
    Sep 30, 2015 at 5:55
  • Yes, seems to be a duplicate, missed that, sorry.
    – Emma Dash
    Sep 30, 2015 at 7:40

1 Answer 1


In Southern English usage (Be aware that 'British' English comes in many flavours) I think that "I went to hospital" is used when discussing medical treatment ("I went to hospital to have my gall bladder removed, but they really messed the operation up..."), "I went to the hospital" is used when it is about motion or travel ("I went to the hospital this morning, and then to the shops"). So "The Hospital" is about a place, "Hospital" is about a process. This is a personal observation, not a systematic study, but thinking about how the two constructions would be used, it 'feels' right.

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