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1. I 'm going to the dentist.

2. I'm going to dentist.

Someone told me that in American English, the is put in the sentences like No.1 above,even though a speaker is

not talking about some specific dentist. Whereas in British English it's not.(No2)

Is it true?
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Comments  
I can't confirm the British English, but I can confirm for American English. You need the "the."

Likewise, "he is in the hospital right now," which I understand BrE would be simply "in hospital" without the "the."
Is there any chance that listeners get confused whether the speaker is talking about a specific one or not?
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"The" is in reference to a specific or established person, place/event, or thing.

I reported THE incident to THE police.
He went to THE concert.
She is in THE library.
Who has THE pencil sharpener?

Contrast this with "a" which is in reference to any 1 from a group.

Which do you think you should use in THE following:

I took (the / a) taxi.
I took (the / a) bus.

Now to your sentence:

"1. I 'm going to the dentist."

It doesn't identify a specific dentist, but we often have THE same doctor, dentist, lawyer, etc... so it is more likely you are seeing a specific person, not just any dentist. If you don't believe me, take it to YOUR lawyer.
I'm sorry to disagree with Wwwdotcom, but there is somehow a unique use of "the" in reference to medical practioners, in American English.

My tooth hurts - I better get to THE dentist. Or I had an appointment with the dentist yesterday. I'd never say "with a dentist."

My throat hurts - I better go to THE doctor. Or I went to the doctor today. Even if you and I don't have the same doctor - even if you don't know who my doctor is - I still wouldn't say "I went to a doctor today."

When she fell out of the tree, she had to go to THE emergency room.

However, if it's really clear that you do NOT have a specific one in mind, you could say "a" in sentences like the following "I broke my tooth - I better find a dentist to go to."

But you'd never say "I'm being sued - I better go see THE lawyer." You'd say "a lawyer" or "my lawyer" (if you had a lawyer - most of us don't). Nor would you say "The sink is leaking - I'm calling THE plumber." You'd say, "The sink is leaking - I'm calling a plumber."

I believe your original question had to do with the difference between British English and American English, where they say "in hospital" instead of "in the hospital."
"I'm sorry to disagree with Wwwdotcom, but there is somehow a unique use of "the" in reference to medical practioners, in American English."

I don't see what you are disagreeing with. I never said there wasn't a unique use of "the"....

"My tooth hurts - I better get to THE dentist. Or I had an appointment with the dentist yesterday. I'd never say "with a dentist." I agree, you will probably see THE same dentist you always have been, not A different dentist.

"My throat hurts - I better go to THE doctor." (Same as above)

"When she fell out of the tree, she had to go to THE emergency room." - That follows what I have said, reference to a place. Do you go to "the bank" or "a bank"?

( However, if it's really clear that you do NOT have a specific one in mind, you could say "a" in sentences like the following "I broke my tooth - I better find a dentist to go to." ) - I agree again, if it is "really clear".

Sorry, don't see where the disagreement lies.
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In British English, you would say:

1. I'm going to see the dentist tonight. (Or "to the dentist's".)

2. I'm going to see the doctor tonight. (Or "to the doctor's".)

3. I'm going into hospital next week for an operation. (No article: your visit has a personal medical purpose.)

4. I'm stopping off at the hospital on the way home. (Article: your visit may have a personal medical purpose; or you may be visiting a friend.)

As has been said, the "the" in #1 and #2 is fine, because the context usually makes the doctor or dentist sufficiently specific.

MrP
I misunderstood your post. I thought you were saying that if it were the SAME doctor, you meant one in common with your listener and therefore you could say "the" because your listener and you had the same doctor - and therefore already knew what doctor you meant. Sorry.
Ok, now we have a difference.

I didn't mean "one in common with your listener". If I say, "I have to go to the bank", that doesn't mean you also have an account at the same bank. Try post office also. I am going to "a" post office or "the" post office?

Obviously, I don't think you are coming to my town's post office to send your package and vice versa. The common element is that either there is only 1 or an established reference point. Here we have an established place at least, if not just 1 particular place.

You could also say, "Let me see if I can find a post office". This would suggest you might be out of town, and therefore there is no established place.
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