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I Like to Go to the Theatre or A Theatre? – Learn Correct Use of The and A in These Fixed Expressions

opera subtitles

Hello culture lovers, this is for you. Because we’ll learn a subtle, small, but important issue. Should you say: I love to go to the theatre? Or: I love to go to a theatre?

By the way, Americans spell that theater (with er).

The answer is: go to the theatre.

Because we’re assuming that the theatre means there is only one theatre. So that’s why you say THE theatre.

The same with I like to go to the opera.

THE opera because most usually there is only one opera house in a city.

I have another question for you:

Do you say: I love to go a play. Or: I love to go to the play.

Normally you say: a play. Because there are millions of plays that you can go to.

But when you’ve already talked about a specific play, you say the play.

Please read this dialogue to understand this better:

Ali: “Would you like to go to a play, Johnnie?”

Jonathan: “Sure, which play?”

Ali: “How about Cherry Orchard? It’s a new production.”

“As long as we go to the pub before the play, I’m in.”

So, you see, as soon as Ali and Jonathan know which play they’ll go to, they talk about the play.

No Rule for This

There are a few funny things in English that I don’t really know how to explain. Let’s see if you know the answer to these:

Do you say: Let’s go to a restaurant? Or to the restaurant?

You usually say to a restaurant.

But now look at this one:

Do you say: Let’s go to a cafe? Or do you say: Let’s go to the cafe?

You usually say: to the cafe.

In other words: you say: Let’s go to a restaurant and let’s go to the cafe.

A restaurant and the cafe. What’s the difference?

I can only assume that you say a restaurant because there are many restaurants in the same town. There are also many cafes but many people tend to go the same old cafe that they know. They have a neighbourhood cafe or another favourite cafe. Hence (= for that reason) they say THE cafe. As if there is only one cafe. Even if people now go to different cafes, the expression is still with the cafe.

You also say: let’s go to the pub.

And not a pub, even though there are pubs on every corner.

Now here are some more examples which I hope make sense to you.

Let’s go for a walk in the park.

Let’s go for a long romantic walk on the beach.

Let’s go on a trip.

Let’s go to a/the museum. (both are okay)

Let’s go to the swimming pool.

Let’s have a picnic.

Let’s go to a concert.

Let’s meet in front of the concert hall.

Let’s sit on the balcony.

Let’s go on a tour of the city.

Let’s order a take-away meal. (or take-out)

Let’s download a movie.

Let’s go to the movies. (or the cinema (Br.) or the movie theater (Am.)

Exercise

Do this exercise online and check your answers here.

Choose between the or a.

1 Marco invited us to _______ picnic. Feel like going?

2 Let’s go out tonight. Do you want to go to ________ restaurant?

3 I love to sit on ________ balcony.

4 Let’s meet in front of ___________ theatre.

5 Would you like to see _________ play tomorrow night?

6 Let’s go for ________ walk in __________ park.

7 We love walking on __________ beach on Saturdays.

8 I’ll see you in _______ pub.

9 There is _____ new movie with Leonardo DiCaprio. Want to go?

10 It’s hot. Let’s go to __________ pool.

11 Vladimir and Beth like to go to ______ opera.

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