I read this question Articles in real life where I saw a number of comments that said that it was typical of Turks, Arabs and Slavic speakers to say something like "Ich war in Schule" or "Ich gehe in Schule" because these languages lack the article model that German has.

But what about English, a Germanic language that obviously has different rules for the article usage when it comes to the word "school"?

For example,

I go to school. -> Ich gehe in die Schule/zur Schule.

I'm in/at school. -> Ich bin in/an der Schule.

School starts at 8 o'clock. -> Die Schule fängt um acht Uhr an.

In English, the rules are more or less clear for me. When we talk about school as an institution or education process, we don't usually use the articles. This doesn't seem to be the case in German.

So my question is, what are the rules in German?

Do you always have to use the articles in prepositional phrases?

(My guess is yes, because you have to differentiate things like "in der Schule" (wo?) and "in die Schule" (wohin?). That would be impossible if you used the zero article like they often do in English)

But then again, I managed to find an example where no article is used, for example:

Wir haben bis zwei Uhr Schule.

So when is it possible to use Schule without an artilce? Or is it only used in the fixed expression Schule haben?

  • because these languages lack the article model that German has - this is a pretty lame explanation. People are just too lazy to learn how to use articles correctly.
    – hash-tag
    Jun 18, 2023 at 16:19

1 Answer 1


Ich gehe in die Schule

is asked for as "Ich gehe wohin? Ich gehe in wen" => Accusative.

Ich bin in der Schule

is asked for as "Ich bin wo? Ich bin in wem"? => Dative

Wir haben bis zwei Uhr XYZ

is generally used without article, as in

Wir hatten bis 20 Uhr Abendessen
Ab 12 Uhr gibt es Mittagessen
Wir gehen um 18 Uhr Schwimmen

You are right saying that this is the case for expressions like "Schule haben", "Essen gehen", "Schwimmen gehen", etc.

  • 1
    Thanks, but I know about the German cases. I was more interested to know when you can use Schule without any article like it is often used in English. Is "Schule haben" the only expression that does not use any article with Schule?
    – stillenat
    May 2, 2013 at 9:55
  • "Schule schwänzen" can be used without article, too. May 2, 2013 at 10:54
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    @Thorsten when you offer an example, please supply a translation, in this case "playing hooky". Schule machen is another: "Wenn das Schule macht, sind die Folgen für uns alle gravierend" -- "We will all be in big trouble if this becomes common practice." Likely there are more such locutions on DWDS but I don't think it's my job to go and look there, it should be done by the Asker as part of their basic research :) May 2, 2013 at 19:00
  • @Eugene Seidel, I acutally was on DWDS but couldn't figure out how to restrict the search to "Schule without an article". But if I understood correctly, you usually use Schule with an article in German, unlike in English, except for a few idiomatic expressions.
    – stillenat
    May 4, 2013 at 15:51
  • @stillenat Oh, so you did check on DWDS already, good for you :) Right, they don't offer a query "noun -article". So, either you check "Wortprofil" --> "ist Objekt (Akkusativ/Dativ) von", which shows me verbs used when Schule is the object: there, I would find "machen" and "schwänzen". Click on "machen" to find examples where Schule in "Schule machen" has no article. But that is useful only for refreshing one's memory, not for a language learner in this case. Further, you can look at "Kernkorpus": results page #4 has "Schule [without article] muss mehr sein als Unterricht." [continued] May 5, 2013 at 4:31

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