You are quite right, Lubos. We would rarely, if ever, say: ‘I’m
going to a pub’. It would be too vague.
somebody asks: ‘Shall we go to the pub?’, even if the particular
pub has not been formally identified yet, he has in mind which one
they will probably go to, or, if not, then a quintessential pub.
Similar considerations apply to the following examples:
'Are you going to the mountains or the sea-side for
your holidays this year?'
'When you next go to the supermarket, can you get me
some natural yoghurt?'
'You’ve got a very bad cough. Have you been to see the doctor
In all of these examples, it is clear to both listener and speaker
which doctor, which supermarket, which sea-side and which mountains
they have in mind.
is often used in this way with words that refer to aspects of our
physical environment of which there is only one or with which everybody
is familiar. Examples would be: the sun, the moon, the
stars, the earth, the world, the rain, the
wind, the Government, the police. Study these examples
'Just like the total eclipse of the sun in 1999, the
total eclipse of the moon on 10 January 2001 could not
be seen in most parts of Britain because of cloud cover.'
(Note that when we refer to continents, countries, counties or
towns, we do not usually use articles.)
'When I’m tucked up in bed at night, I love listening to the
wind and the rain beating on my window.'
(Note that ‘bed’, like ‘home’ or ‘school’, is one of those very
common nouns that do not usually need an article.)
'The world would be a better place if people were less
(Note ‘people’ = people generally, so no article)
article v the
'People who live in towns are often afraid of dogs.'
'I reminded the children to feed the dogs.'
the first statement is a general one: ‘people’, ‘towns’ and ‘dogs’
generally, any towns, any dogs, so no article is needed.
In the second statement, the person speaking has particular children
and particular dogs in mind, so uses the. Similar considerations
apply to the following examples:
'A glass of wine every day is good for you.'
(Any wine will do, and by ‘a glass’, we mean ‘one glass’.)
'What’ll you have?' 'I’d like a glass of dry white wine
(It doesn’t matter what sort of wine it is, as long as it’s dry
'Pass the wine, Fred, there’s a good chap!' (The wine
that is sitting on the table, next to your elbow!)