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Talk:in the hospital

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in the hospitalEdit

--Connel MacKenzie 08:14, 29 June 2007 (UTC)

keep. Firstly, this is idiomatic for the US. In the UK, they say "in hospital". Neither expression is expected from the sum of its parts, since "in the hallway" doesn't mean "admitted as a patient to the hallway". Think of it this way: If someone told you they were going to be "in the hospital" next week, you wouldn't simply assume they were going to visit someone. Rather, you would assume they were going to be a patient. But someone physically present within a hospital is not necessarily "in the hospital". --EncycloPetey 08:18, 29 June 2007 (UTC)
WTH? "I'll be working in the hospital all next week." --Connel MacKenzie 18:51, 29 June 2007 (UTC)
Yes, it has a non-idiomatic sense as well, but so do many English idioms. --EncycloPetey 20:25, 29 June 2007 (UTC)
But how is it idiomatic, at all? --Connel MacKenzie 23:45, 29 June 2007 (UTC)
By the way, not to mix discussions, but would in hospital be an alternative spelling, an alternative form, or a synonym? —RuakhTALK 16:36, 29 June 2007 (UTC)
It would be a synonym, followed by the country/countries in which it is used. See what I have recently done to fry (noun) and frying pan. — Paul G 16:40, 29 June 2007 (UTC)
I wouldn't call it idiomatic, even if you can't predict exactly how it'll be expressed. In Scotland you say I'm going to my bed instead of I'm going to bed, or what did you get for your Christmas? instead of what did you get for Christmas?. These kind of sentence-formation rules aren't really a matter for dictionaries, rather they belong in phrasebooks or a language course. I'm not saying I want it deleted as such, but it makes me a bit uneasy. Widsith 16:44, 29 June 2007 (UTC)
It's an idiom in that the definite article isn't generally used this way in U.S. English; usually the definite article is only used in a context where the audience can figure out which whatever is being referred to. "In the house" is different from "in a house" in that in the former, the speaker expects the audience to be able to infer what house is being referred to (either from immediate context, or from background knowledge), while in the latter, he does not; "in the hospital", however, is really synonymous with "in a hospital", reflecting the fact that it's an idiom: the goal isn't actually to express the location specifically, but the situation overall. ("Hospital" isn't the only term like this — we can say "in the emergency room" with a similar sense — but it's not a general property of the grammar, as we can't just say "in the intensive care unit" unless the audience already knows which hospital it is, having instead to say "in intensive care" or "in the intensive care unit at <hospital name>".) —RuakhTALK 17:35, 29 June 2007 (UTC)
I think you can say in the intensive care unit. Also at the shops, taking the car to the garage, at the police station, in the bank, on the train and hundreds more. The use of the doesn't seem idiomatic to me at all. Widsith 17:38, 29 June 2007 (UTC)
But those are examples of a different semantic function than "in the hospital". Your examples are all simply specifying which location. "on the train" simply means something is located on a specific train without bothering to identify which one. Saying my mother is "in the hospital" doesn't simply describe her location, but the condition of her health. I would say the same thing can be seen in an idiom like "My car is in the shop," implies it is being repaired, not that the car is physically at an unspecified shop. Likewise, "My father is on the road most of the year." This means he travels (probably as part of his job), and not that he is standing in the roadway through some bizarre mental quirk. Or consider "That's money in the bank," or "You can take that to the bank." In these idioms there is an implication that something is of value, not simply a description of its physical location. --EncycloPetey 20:21, 29 June 2007 (UTC)
I still don't quite agree. The difference is that in the hospital is literally true, whereas on the road is not necessarily so, for example you could say it of someone who was currently in a motel room rather than literally driving on a road. By contrast, you couldn't use in the hospital to just describe the condition of someone's health if they were at home in bed. Widsith 19:16, 30 June 2007 (UTC)
Delete in the hospital and keep in hospital. The latter is an idiom (listed as such by the OED), the former isn't. JackLumber 21:41, 29 June 2007 (UTC)
That's because the OED generally has a British bias; you can see it in entries like come, v. B. 3. e., which is marked with a dagger (meaning "obsolete"), but which is used by every American on a daily basis (← that's a slight exaggeration, but still, you get the idea). This is understandable and acceptable on the OED's part, but I see no reason that we should mimic it. —RuakhTALK 22:50, 29 June 2007 (UTC)
Compare also the OED entries for sleet and mason. (Things have changed, however; the OED has now an office in New York City.) But in the hospital is not an idiom, because USEng always uses an article regardless of context, while BrEng idiomatically omits the definite article in the specific case of a patient being in the hospital. JackLumber 22:56, 29 June 2007 (UTC)
The meaning of idiom has little to do with whether its grammar follows normal English patterns such as the inclusion of the definite article. An idiom is "A phrase that cannot be fully understood from the separate meanings of the individual words which form it, but instead must be learned as a whole unit of meaning." The phrase in the hospital is idiomatic because the meaning it carries is not evident from the mere separate meanings of in, the, & hospital. The presence or absence of the does not change whether or not it is an idiom, becuase "the" does not carry the full weight of the construction. --EncycloPetey 23:15, 29 June 2007 (UTC)
The OED has four entries for sleet and three for mason (counting only lowercase ones); can you be more specific? And yes, it's perfectly natural that U.S. English uses an article here, but the choice of article is surprising: the, even though no specific hospital is being specified. (As I think about it, though, I suspect that "in the hospital" is just the sum of "in" and "the hospital", the latter being the idiomatic component; after all, we can also say "we took him to the hospital", "he just got out of the hospital yesterday", "he was admitted to the hospital", etc., all without any context that might identify the hospital.) —RuakhTALK 23:13, 29 June 2007 (UTC)
In all those examples, UK English generally uses either "hospital" or "the hospital" - "we took him to hospital"/"we took him to the hospital", "he just got out of hospital yesterday"/"he just got out of the hospital" (this feels overly precise)/"he just got out the hospital yesterday", "he was admitted to hospital"/"he was admitted to the hospital" (I suspect this is significantly rarer in BE than " hospital"). Thryduulf 23:29, 29 June 2007 (UTC)
I was mostly focusing on the difference between UK and U.S. usage: note that a nurse is in the hospital (not in hospital) in England too. Sleet as in weather and mason as in worker. There's no mention of the American meanings. JackLumber 23:20, 29 June 2007 (UTC)
I changed my mind. Delete both. Or else we're gonna need in school, in college, in church,... and delete in bed too while you're at it... JackLumber 23:28, 29 June 2007 (UTC)
Why? None of those are idiomatic in the way that in the hospital is. --EncycloPetey 23:34, 29 June 2007 (UTC)
But they are idiomatic in the way that *in hospital* is. JackLumber 23:39, 29 June 2007 (UTC)
No, they aren't. As I said before, omitting "the" does not make an expression idiomatic. There is nothing unexpected in the meaning of any of those terms, only in the use or absence of the definite article. That doesn't make it idiomatic any more more than "in Spanish", or "in retrospect". --EncycloPetey 23:43, 29 June 2007 (UTC)
They sure are. British English uses in the hospital for everything and everyone except for patients: a patient is in hospital, everybody else is in the hospital. Therein lies the idiom. In the U.S., a student is in school, i.e. he is a student. In Britain, a patient is in hospital. JackLumber 23:48, 29 June 2007 (UTC)
The expression in school is not a parallel case because school (unlike hospital) is not limited to the building. A school or church can be an agglomeration of individuals in a way that hospital cannot. --EncycloPetey 23:57, 29 June 2007 (UTC)
That's a bit of a stretch. JackLumber 00:05, 30 June 2007 (UTC)

"The newlyweds are in bed" seems way more idiomatic than "in the hospital." --Connel MacKenzie 23:43, 29 June 2007 (UTC)
Hmm, so in bed might have some idiomatic uses. "I was in bed with two beautiful women." means something very different from "I was in bed with the flu." --EncycloPetey 23:45, 29 June 2007 (UTC)
Yes: precisely, in has different meanings: "stuck lying in" in the former and "lying in" in the latter. —msh210 18:31, 3 July 2007 (UTC)
Keep, "in the hospital" means "in a hospital"? How is a non-native speaker supposed to guess that? If that definition is disputed, take it to RFV. Kappa 16:41, 30 June 2007 (UTC)
Compare the lion is a noble animal. How is a non-native speaker supposed to guess that the lion=any lion. He's not supposed to ‘guess’, he's expected to learn that that's a feature of the language, and not an uncommon one. Widsith 19:13, 30 June 2007 (UTC)
Keep. Both in hospital and in the hospital (which I also hear in UK, BTW) mean that someone is not well and is a patient. The hospital is not specified, so the the is redundent / not definitive. As for at/in school, at/in the shops, at/in work and all the other examples above, the place IS specific. We DO know which school (the one you always go to), which shops (the local ones), which church, which bank, etc. Algrif 17:44, 30 June 2007 (UTC)
Not that I care whether the term is deleted or kept, but this argument is not convincing. You don't know which school or which shops. Obviously you can make a confident guess, but that is not inherent in the definition. The hospital is no less specific. The definite article in English does not only introduce specific examples of things. Consider I love the summer, it's so relaxing. A specific summer is not indicated. That is one of the ways the works. To say I'm in the hospital is just a kind of metonymy. Widsith 19:13, 30 June 2007 (UTC)
I'm very torn. You're right that the does have other such uses outside of hospital: "I went to the drugstore", "I need to drop by the grocery store", "I need to drive through the ATM", "Even a king needs to go to the bathroom sometimes". The general pattern seems to be places that are identified with actions (though in some cases the action can be a bit less fully specified than in the case of hospital), and always with a verb or preposition of being-at or motion-to; but, there's a complicating factor, in that many such places don't require any article at all (school, work, camp, church, bed, sometimes college), seemingly places that one attends regularly. (In the extreme example, home doesn't even require a preposition.) We should definitely by including this sort of information somehow, but I'm not sure that trying to cover all collocations is the way. I think we might be best off documenting the's behavior at the, and including usage notes at entries like hospital explaining the meaning of these collocations/idioms. —RuakhTALK 21:24, 30 June 2007 (UTC)
I think Paul G was threatening to start an appendix (or two) on grammar (which, oddly, we don't have dozens of, already.) This use of "the" seems like a prime candidate for one such page. About the collocations, I think we should many -ization words are there in the English language? This method would suggest six entries, ('x', 'x+ization', 'x+izations', 'in x', 'in the x' and 'the x') for each? If I set a bot to that task, it might want to play hospital with my CPU until something broke. --Connel MacKenzie 21:01, 1 July 2007 (UTC)
Delete per Ruakh and Connel. If we were to keep in hospital and in the hospital we would also need out of the hospital, out of hospital, to hospital, to the hospital and a zillion other useless entries. If a user (possibly a non-native speakers) wants to know how the word hospital is used, collocation and all, what is s/he supposed to look up? hospital. A plain, simple usage note s.v. hospital is the solution. JackLumber 19:15, 2 July 2007 (UTC)
I do not see any difference here between in the hospital and such prepositional idioms as in the bag. Both have literal and idiomatic functions. This is typical of prepositional idiomatic phrases. Some examples:- The new contract is in the bag. The meaning depends on the conversational context. Where's the contract? and How's the contract? can both be answered with the above phrase. In case 1. the answer is literal. In case 2. the answer is idiomatic.
My wife is a doctor. My friend comes to my house and asks Where's your wife, today? or asks How's your wife today? She's in the hospital. The answer in case one is literal and in case 2 is idiomatic, provoking the response, Oh dear! I hope it's nothing serious! etc. If my wife is not a nurse or medic etc, then the answer to both questions would be taken in the idiomatic sense. Which hospital? Can I visit? What room number? etc.If the answer to any of the above questions were in hospital, there would be no doubt at all about the idiomatic interpretation that I am saying my wife is not at all well and is under medical care in a hospital, whether her work is hospital related or not. I'm sorry, but it seem to me to be as clear as crystal. All the above expressions are prepositional idiomatic phrases which also have literal senses depending on the conversational context. Algrif 07:48, 2 July 2007 (UTC)
The difference is that when something's in the bag, it's not literally in a bag. Whereas when someone's in the hospital, they are literally in the hospital – otherwise you would be able to use it of people who are at ill at home etc. Widsith 09:18, 2 July 2007 (UTC)
The point is just that. Depending the context it can or not be literally in the bag. The meaning changes. The same applies to in (the) hospital. The meaning changes according to context. That is the hallmark of an idiomatic phrase. The meaning changes and is no longer the sum of the parts. in (the) hospital can mean in a private clinic, too. There are several prepositional idiomatic phrases which could be disputed on similar grounds, but the dispute would be incorrect. One example is given above on the road. in bed is another. Algrif 10:34, 2 July 2007 (UTC)
No, as I've said I do not agree that in the hospital is ever non-literal. What is your definiton of the phrase? Currently it is defined as "admitted as a patient to a hospital". But it also has the meaning "in a hospital for any other reason". In all cases, the person is literally in a hospital. On the road is not always literally true (you could be in a motel room, at a distant company office etc). I personally would never say in the hospital for someone in a private non-hospital clinic, but if others agree with that I suppose it could be narrowly idiomatic. I will be interested to see how it's defined though. And even then I think this information is much more useful at hospital, which is what users are likely to look up. Widsith 08:56, 3 July 2007 (UTC)
Just a quick note. prepositional idioms nearly always have this problem precisely because they start with a preposition. Whether the preposition is literal or idiomatic is where the question really lies. Algrif 10:41, 2 July 2007 (UTC)
I really think the "the" US/UK issue could be worked out as a usage note at hospital, and that the understanding that a person who is in a hospital is sick is really just a pragmatic assessment rather than idiomatic. However, Algrif hit on something when he said that "in (the) hospital can mean in a private clinic, too." Keep on those grounds alone. DAVilla 22:52, 2 July 2007 (UTC)
Thanks for the vote of confidence. And to add strength to my argument, it is interesting to note that we would normally use at to distinguish the meaning. My wife is at the hospital means she is there doing something other than being ill. Algrif 16:07, 3 July 2007 (UTC)

I think in is the word that has a different meaning in this idiom, not the. In here means "a patient in", with the hospital meaning "some hospital" much as in "Even a king needs to go to the bathroom sometimes". So this entry should either be keeped or be deleted with a new definition included at in. Likewise for in school (for its specific sense of "a student at a school", not the other sense of "currently on school grounds"): in means "a student at" and there should either be an entry for the phrase or be a definition for in. Likewise for car in the shop: in means being worked on by employees of. (Note that the car may be test-driven at the moment outside of the mechanic's shop's grounds, and the speaker may know this fact.) So the entry for in should have this definition, or there should be an entry for in the shop. I prefer all these definitions to be included under in for the following reason (and therefore say delete here): in the shop can be replaced by in the mechanics' shop or in the mechanic's shop; in the hospital can be replaced by in the rehab center or in the rehabilitation center or in rehab; in school can be replaced by in college or in high school or in elementary school; etc. I don't think these are all separate idioms with separate definitions (frankly, I think including all of them would be silly). Rather, they all simply reflect various definitions of in, and that's where the definitions should be added. —msh210 18:41, 3 July 2007 (UTC)

Having thought about it more, I realize that in in in the shop, in school, and in the hospital all have similar meanings: "admitted to" or "staying in to be worked on". So this would definitely, then, be a definition of in and nothing more. —msh210 14:45, 4 July 2007 (UTC)
So, if someone is in school, they are "admitted to" the school? A common American cliche phrase is "Stay in school"; surely you don't think that means "stay admitted" or "stay to be worked on"? If you say there is a body "in the road" is it somehow admitted to the road? There to be worked on? The sense you propose is not general. From the other direction, consider that the phrases in the apartment and in the store have no idiomatic usage whatsoever in English, despite the fact that they are of the same form "in + the + name of building." This usage is therefore not general to the word in, but rather is specific to certain nouns that may follow it. --EncycloPetey 20:39, 4 July 2007 (UTC)
I don't have much time now, but briefly: Of course what I said is not relevant to in the store or in the apartment. In has several meanings besides the one I put forth above. Q.v. But the one I said is also a meaning of it. Even in the road has a different in than the phrases I mentioned. And as far as stay in school goes, yes, it means "stay admitted to school" (i.e., don't drop out). —msh210 14:35, 5 July 2007 (UTC)
We're going round in circles here and always coming back to the question of whether this is a prepositional phrase or not. In my opinion, the fact that the idiomatic sense includes a location does NOT stop it from being an idiomatic prepositional phrase. Compare with at home and tell me what the difference is, please. Algrif 16:04, 5 July 2007 (UTC) Not a good example. Forget it. This is a borderline case, I agree. But it does have an idiomatic sense.Algrif 16:11, 5 July 2007 (UTC)
No, I think at home is a very good example. It can mean "present in one's residence" or "at ease". Likewise, in the hospital has two senses. If someone says, "Be careful with the chainsaw or you could end up in the hospital," they aren't talking about being present in a hospital or even in a building, they're talking about being injured. It is idiomatic. --EncycloPetey 08:30, 6 July 2007 (UTC)

If I say that my sister is in high school, you don't know which high school. If I say that my old man is in prison, you don't know which prison. I may sit at _the_ table even if I have 10 tables in my home. Compare Webster's New World College Dictionary, s.v. in preposition:

7. a) being a member of or worker at [in the navy, in business] b) being a student at [she's in college] c) being an inmate of [to be in prison]

It's not just in, though. My sister dropped out of high school. Jack had to go to (the) hospital. JackLumber 19:00, 6 July 2007 (UTC) JackLumber 19:00, 6 July 2007 (UTC)

No, in those phrases the idiomatic part (by which I mean "the part which has a meaning other than its usual meaning") is not the preposition alone. In dropped out of high school, dropped out is idiomatic. In had to go to the hospital, there's no idiomatic part (relevant to our discussion; of course, had has an idiomatic meaning here). Rather, you're merely saying he was required to go to the hospital; the fact that he's sick is inferred logically from that, but that's metalinguistic (is that a word?). —msh210 05:13, 10 July 2007 (UTC)
Don't let the verbs fool you! How can you say that "had" has an "idiomatic" meaning here? Have to is a modal verb, that's all.
He went to (the) hospital. He was discharged from (the) hospital. He was admitted to (the) hospital. He was rushed to (the) hospital. He was released from (the) hospital. He got out of prison. He was sent to prison. He escaped from prison. He was released from prison. It ain't about prepositions---it's about the word hospital. There's no reason to single out the preposition in. JackLumber 19:25, 10 July 2007 (UTC)
But you see, in each of those examples you've given above, there is an action verb. In the case of "He is in the hospital", the prepositional phrase serves as a predicate modifier, which isn't the case when you have a non-copula like admit, rush, or release. "He was from the hospital"? "He was to the hospital"? The phrase in the hospital can function in ways that other preositions can't handle; it is able to do this in part because it is idiomatic in a way that the other expressions with prepositions simply are not. --EncycloPetey 19:37, 10 July 2007 (UTC)
¿What kind of an argument is that? I can say I am in my room, but I obviously can't say *I was to my room or *I'm going to be from my room; yet "in my room" ain't idiomatic any. On the other hand, to be out of (the) hospital does make sense. JackLumber 21:36, 10 July 2007 (UTC)
Are you actually reading what you're writing? You act as though each reply is in a vacuum. You said "There is no reason to single out the preposition "in". I pointed out that phrases using "in" fuction differently, so there is reason to single it out. How does your latest reply fit into that line of discussion? --EncycloPetey 22:00, 10 July 2007 (UTC)
?!? *You* are not reading what I'm writing. You don't have to, however. I just pointed out that your "reason" to single out the preposition in doesn't make sense. JackLumber 22:26, 10 July 2007 (UTC)
I don't follow. Insofar as "She's in the hospital" is idiomatic (implying that she's been admitted as a patient), so are "She's been out of the hospital for a few weeks now" (implying that she was released a few weeks earlier — which, by the way, is more unambiguously idiomatic, because you can say this even if she's still doing physical therapy at the hospital), "They took her to the hospital [to be admitted as a patient]", etc. —RuakhTALK 22:32, 10 July 2007 (UTC)
The best case I've seen so far for keeping this is that given by EncycloPetey. "Be careful with the chainsaw or you could end up in the hospital." If anyone can demonstrate that this is NOT idiomatic (e.g. = be hurt or injured) then we have here a valid example of idiomatic use. Quotes along these lines will be very easy to find. The rest of the arguments above become superfluous because the idiomatic form is demonstrated. QED. Algrif 14:28, 12 July 2007 (UTC)
But the question is, what exactly is the idiom? "Out of the hospital" has similarly idiomatic uses, as do "to the hospital" and probably many others; so should we have separate entries for each of these, or give this as a sense at "hospital"? —RuakhTALK 17:22, 12 July 2007 (UTC)
The idiom is in hospital and in the hospital Meaning To be badly hurt or injured As per the chainsaw example given above. I'm not sure why out of (the) hospital should be idiomatic. Find some examples and we can include it. Why not? Doghouse links to in the doghouse If I can find a good reason for out of the doghouse then I will request inclusion for that, too. Algrif 10:27, 13 July 2007 (UTC)
No, in (the) hospital doesn't mean "badly hurt or injured." It means "being given medical care in a hospital or similar institution." Out of (the) hospital means the opposite of that; to the hospital means etc. If you are not careful with the chainsaw, it is likely that you will end up in a hospital, no doubt about it. In any case, the use of in the hospital in the chainsaw example can be regarded as a figure of speech---surely not an idiom. JackLumber 00:04, 14 July 2007 (UTC)

After reading the Pawley list in the CFI, I would say that in hospital meets the following:- 3. Customary status: Does the use of the phrase imply certain behavior patterns, values, or sequences of activities that are known by society at large? They represent conventionalized knowledge. For example, expected behavior at the front door is different from at the back door (besides their participation in idioms), indicating that these function as cultural units (lexemes) that are more significant than the sum of the parts. Consider go to the mosque, get off work.

7. Single-word synonyms: the only one of its kindunique. in hospital = injured

11. Inseparability of constituents: Insertion of other material changes the unity or naturalness of a phrasal lexeme. Consider: lead up the garden path. Saying lead up the beautiful garden path shifts it from a figurative to a literal interpretation. In the hospital is NOT the same as in the local hospital. Nor the same as your example where you put in A hospital, thereby changing the idiomatic nature of the phrase.

And in the case of in the hospital 19: Use of definite article on first mention. Algrif 12:31, 16 July 2007 (UTC)

For what it's worth, note this news story, which quotes a RAF spokesperson :
  • "We've also assisted in getting medication to people who weren't able to get to hospital. One helicopter has taken a cardiac arrest patient to hospital because the roads were impassable," she said.
This could confuse an American, who would expect to a hospital (or the other phrase mentioned in this discussion, to the hospital). — Beobach972 23:56, 21 July 2007 (UTC)

Return to "in the hospital" page.