I've searched all the internet, but mostly the explanation was so different from one another that i couldn't come up with one conclusion.

I know in some cases, articles are not needed between 'to' and 'location', if the location is used in a proper way like:

I go to school, He goes to church

Except for that cases, i usually use 'the' between 'to' and 'location' like:

I go to the bank, I go to the store

So here's my question. Why do we use Definite Articles in that cases, even though we use Definite Articles when a listener and I know something the same? I can assume it is natural to use 'the', while talking with a friend who lives in the same area(because he knows what 'the store' i mentioned is.) How can we use 'I went to the store yesterday' instead of 'I went to a store yesterday' to the people who I met first, or the teacher who lives in a far place from me? Is it just an idiomatic expression?

I keep studying english, so my writing can be awkward. I'm sorry for that in advance.


In this case, the use of the definite article 'the' is when you want to express specificity.

In other words, when you say "Go to the bank", you're saying to go to a specific bank (which you might assume the other person already knows about).

When you say "Go to a bank", you're not being specific. You're saying to go to any bank.

  • Thank you a lot! Could you tell me more cases that we use "the", assuming the other person already knows about something? – Student412 Feb 8 at 8:44
  • Well, to correct myself a little here, it isn't necessarily that you assume the other person knows about it, but you are still being specific. I liked the show. We saw the shark (that you saw). – John Go-Soco Feb 8 at 8:46

In my opinion, the definite article in this case refers to the local shop or bank that you normally go to, whether or not the person you are speaking to knows it. In the nursery rhyme, Old Mother Hubbard "went to the baker's to buy him some bread", meaning her local bakery. If you were in a strange city, you might say "I went to a bank."


The definite article communicates that you are not about to tell us something that distinguishes the place you went from others like it:

I went to the doctor yesterday, and he said I am obsessed with usage.
I went to the pet shop to buy a rabbit


I finally went to a doctor who recognized my condition.
I went to a pet shop that sells rabbits.

Note that in all cases, you are talking about a specific doctor or pet store, but the degree to which the specific identity or nature of the referent matters to the narrative is not binary. If all I need to know about the doc is that you didn't go to a random person on the street, "the doctor" is all you need to tell me. But if you want me to know that you went to a doctor with a special, but not unique, attribute, the indefinite article plus a subordinate clause splits the difference between too much and too little specificity.

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