Omission of definite article

Damien Hall djh514 at YORK.AC.UK
Tue Jan 19 10:48:59 UTC 2010

Mark Mandel said:

> I believe in the UK they say "in (or at?) university".

We say 'at University' (I think it's just a tic of mine that 'University'
is always capitalised, but we do omit the definite article in that phrase).
It's subject to the same constraint Mark noted for hospitals: patients are
'in hospital', but doctors and visitors to patients are 'at the hospital'
(or, I suppose, 'in the hospital' if you are standing outside it and
'hospital' refers to a particular building, not the abstract institution);
likewise, students are 'at University', but people who work there are 'at
the University'.

Kelli, you might find the following blog-post interesting:

It's from Separated By a Common Language, a blog on the differences between
American and British English, written by Lynne Murphy, who's American and
lives in England (and is an academic at the University of Sussex). The blog
is entertaining and / because it's not written for linguists, but the
information is, of course, useful to them! Lynne is on this list, actually,
but I notice she hasn't jumped in to advertise her coverage of this point.
Perhaps she spends her time doing the things she _needs_ to do rather than
things that are academically useful and also entertaining but not entirely
essential to her job, like me ...


Damien Hall

University of York
Department of Language and Linguistic Science
YO10 5DD

Tel. (office) +44 (0)1904 432665
     (mobile) +44 (0)771 853 5634
Fax  +44 (0)1904 432673

The American Dialect Society -

More information about the Ads-l mailing list