Specifically, the term market in the following sentence is often referred to as "the market". But here the article has been omitted. What licenses such usage?

The difference between prices in America and those in Europe was enormous, and planters were convinced that the reason for this was that Virginia and Maryland were dependent upon foreign shippers to carry their tobacco to market.

Source: Novus Ordo Seclorum

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    Compare "sent to bed" and "sent to the table". It's not particularly logical.
    – Stuart F
    Jul 10, 2021 at 22:05
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    @Greybeard Whether it's a count or non-count noun is a non-issue here. The same prison can be used without the when we describe an inmate (he went to prison) but with the when we describe a non-inmate (he went to the prison to visit a friend of his). It's unnecessarily complicated to hypothesize the same prison can be a count or a non-count noun depending on the subject of the sentence. Moreover, non-count nouns can have the as in he bought the furniture, the information was not available, etc.
    – JK2
    Jul 11, 2021 at 3:50
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    @GArthurBrown "The slave was sent to the hospital" Thanks for the reminder. It does seem strange to me as a BE speaker where my first thought when hearing this would be "Which hospital?", although, inexplicably this does not occur if I hear "He was sent to the supermarket."
    – Greybeard
    Jul 11, 2021 at 11:09
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    @Greybeard It does seem to be somewhat arbitrary. You can go to church, but even if you are a monk/nun you have to go to the monastery, the nunnery, the convent. Jul 11, 2021 at 11:17
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    @Greybeard I wonder whether this usage of "to market" is licensed at all. The writer is evidently an American historian. In American usage, "brought to market" or "sent to market" is a expression with a somewhat abstract meaning that encompasses the entire process of a good being made available for purchase on some market. That is, we don't use the uncountable "market" the same way Brits might. "Carried to market," to mean literally transported, while evidently sensible in BrE, strikes me as a misuse of the relatively fixed and abstract expressions above in a U.S. environment.
    – cruthers
    Jul 11, 2021 at 19:57

1 Answer 1


It may not be possible to define a rule here. What matters is what is idiomatic.

In English, to be sent to market means to be offered for sale on the market. This is an abstract concept. The market has no physical location. This may occur in multiple places. "Around 85% of ducklings would survive this eight-week rearing process to be sent to market."

to be sent to the market is used in contexts like "My mother sent me to the market to buy eggs." This means being sent to buy eggs at the market. This is a physical location. There is a particular marketplace in mind.

This is also used in economics in circumstances like: "What signal is sent to the market when a firm decides to issue new stock to raise capital?" This is saying the something is being communicated to an area of the economy (4d: MW.com: the area of economic activity in which buyers and sellers come together and the forces of supply and demand affect prices). Note: this does not mean that something is being offered for sale on the market.

There is no hard-and-fast rule for how to determine when the article is used in English, and the rules even vary within different varieties of English: The Brits can say "sent to hospital" while North Americans have to say "sent to the hospital." But we both say "sent to school" meaning that the person is enrolled for education at an academic institution. (While being sent to the school means being sent to the physical location of the school building.)

  • Or even "for sale on market"? :)
    – JK2
    Jul 11, 2021 at 10:22
  • @JK2 I can only say that would never be said in American English. "For sale on the market" always. " Jul 11, 2021 at 10:25
  • Exactly the reason why I brought it up. Now, you'd have to distinguish between the possible "to market" and the impossible "on market". Good luck.
    – JK2
    Jul 11, 2021 at 10:30
  • @JK2 I'm not following you at all. Jul 11, 2021 at 10:33
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    I mean, I couldn't agree more with your first paragraph. You can't possibly find a consistent rule here. Even your own attempt at it ("market" being an abstract concept, etc.) involves the phrase "on the market", where you can't omit "the". Go figure.
    – JK2
    Jul 11, 2021 at 14:12

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