Muhammad Ali died in hospital in Arizona,

Watching NHK World News, I found the above sentence lacking "a" (article) before "hospital".

Is this correct or should the indefinite article, "a", be there? If correct, why is "a" not necessary in this case? Please explain.


2 Answers 2


The meaning of "in hospital" and "in a hospital" is subtly different.

The difference is that "in hospital" is description of a general state of being hospitalized, rather than a location, whereas "in a hospital" is referring to the location (even though it still doesn't tell you where it is).

You would only use "in hospital" to refer to someone who has been hospitalized, ie is receiving treatment. So, if you were recovering from surgery, you could say that you are "in hospital" (ie hospitalized) or "in a hospital" (the location). But if your relatives came to visit they would not be "in hospital" - they would be "in a hospital" or "in the hospital" or "in St Mary's Hospital" for instance.

Talking about someone dying (eg Muhammed Ali), if they died while receiving treatment (such as life support) you would say they died "in hospital", as this tells the listener that they were being cared for, and their death was presumably inevitable. If you were to say that someone died "in a hospital", that makes it sound like they weren't receiving treatment at the time: eg perhaps they had a massive fatal heart attack and stroke when they saw the bill for their father's treatment, and were dead before any of the staff could try to rescuscitate them.

EDIT: apparently AmEng doesn't use "in hospital", saying "in the hospital" to mean "hospitalized". This means that in AmEng, "in the hospital" is ambiguous - possibly meaning "hospitalized" or possibly meaning "located in the hospital". As with all ambiguity resolution, context is key. If my mother was seriously ill (in hospital), and I said to my sister that I was "in the hospital", she would guess that I was visiting our mother, rather than being treated - but she might feel compelled to check.

  • Only in Commonwealth English. Americans say "in the hospital." Jun 20, 2016 at 14:36
  • NHK is Japanese, I wonder what side of the fence they fall on (regarding AmEng vs BrEng). Sounds like BrEng from that one snippet, since by the sounds of it AmEng doesn't say "in hospital" in any context. Jun 20, 2016 at 14:57
  • I imagine it depends on the reporter. Even here in the US, NBC's Nightly News London bureau reporter reports the way he/she normally speaks. Jun 20, 2016 at 15:16
  • If my mother was ill and in the hospital and. I was there visiting her i’d tell my sister, “I’m at the hospital.”
    – Jim
    Jun 20, 2016 at 15:48
  • Ah - so "at the" meaning visiting, and "in the" meaning "hospitalized"? That makes sense. That's the same in BrEng I think. So BrEng and AmEng are the same except that in BrEng you can say "in hospital" or "in the hospital" to mean "hospitalized". Jun 20, 2016 at 16:03

To my BrE ears died in hospital sounds more natural, as it's not relevant which specific hospital.

in hospital

Receiving medical or surgical treatment, care, or attention at a hospital. Primarily heard in UK. My grandmother is in hospital again for hip surgery. I heard you were in hospital last week! Are you all right? - Farlex Dictionary of Idioms

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