You have mentioned two of an abundance of differences. Some are logical and others are not. One that puzzles me is "lieutenant." Americans say LOO-tenant while Brits say LEFT-tenant. If you look at the spelling it is easy to see there is no "f".
By the way, the usages of hospital in England make perfect sense and in the US we have the same type of usage for school or church. If you are talking about the building you say I am going to the school/to the church/to the hospital. But if you are talking about the organization and services rendered you say I am going to school/to church/to hospital. In this case I think the Brits have it right.
As I said, these that are mentioned are only a few of many differences and I, personally, like differences because it gives me something to marvel at.
Robert, you are right about hospital. I was pointing out a pattern that the British use and I think Americans use it only with school and church. I think it is a logical pattern. I don't even know if the British use this pattern with school and church but it is obviously the same pattern.
Movie and ball game are a bit different in that we don't go to these places to be involved in an activity, only to watch. If I said, "I am going to the ball game," I think it would be assumed that I was going to watch a ball game, not play. (Unless that is previously understood) If I am "going to the movie" it would be understood that I am not part of the making or displaying of such. "Going to the store" is different because even though I would be involved in the commerce, it is not the level of involvement I would find at the school, church, or hospital. (Stock Exchange just came to mind where people are very deeply involved. I'm not even going to think about that.)
Again, I marvel at how there can be only a shade of difference in meaning that causes a different expression, and still different people speak it differently.
I was pointing out a pattern that the British use and I think Americans use it only with school and church.
And "court" and "hospice" and "work" and more. It's not as uncommon in English as you seem to think. It is a curious pattern though. Might not be a matter of "participation" as you suggest, but more a matter of "personal commitment." And maybe that's just a different shade of the same thing.
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