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  1. #1
    anupumh's Avatar
    anupumh is offline Senior Member
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    Exclamation What a pity! usage of article

    Hi,

    Why do we add an article in this expression..

    What a pity!

    Pity is uncountable, still why we use a indefinite article

    Thank

  2. #2
    konungursvia's Avatar
    konungursvia is offline Key Member
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    Default Re: What a pity! usage of article

    With a pity, a shame, or similar disappointments, they are countable up to one.

    Or you could see them as "fixed phrases" which are invariable whether or not they currently obey the norms of speech. "Aren't I" is such a fixed phrase.

    We must not see living languages and their syntax as strict, well-defined computer programs without exceptions; they are as full of inconsistencies as we human beings are.

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    For such as we are made of, such we be."

  3. #3
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    Default Re: What a pity! usage of article

    Quote Originally Posted by anupumh View Post
    Hi,

    Why do we add an article in this expression..

    What a pity!

    Pity is uncountable, still why we use a indefinite article

    Thank
    I agree that "pity" is typically used as an uncountable noun. However, it has a plural form, and it appears in its plural form, though very infrequently. It's shown to have a plural form in the AHD.

    pity: Definition, Synonyms from Answers.com

    The noun shame is always uncountable as shown in the AHD. However, we can find accounts of its usage as a plural on Google, which makes sense because if we can use "a" - indefinite article with "shame", it only stands to reason that there can be more than one "shame".

    shame: Definition, Synonyms from Answers.com

    http://www.google.com/search?q=%22th...&start=20&sa=N

    The plural use of these two nouns is, mostly, singular, just the same. However, as a technical point, it would seem that using the indefinite article with "shame" and "pity" would not be 100% inconsistent with English grammar and usage - apparently strictly popular usage in the case of "shame".

  4. #4
    Raymott's Avatar
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    Default Re: What a pity! usage of article

    Quote Originally Posted by PROESL View Post
    The noun shame is always uncountable as shown in the AHD.

    Goodness. Maybe AHD isn't the font of all wisdom after all!

    However, we can find accounts of its usage as a plural on Google, which makes sense because if we can use "a" - indefinite article with "shame", it only stands to reason that there can be more than one "shame".
    We had this argument recently about "education" - that is, the argument about whether a noun taking the indefinite article implied a plural form.
    Since we can say "He has had a good education", shouldn't 'educations' be acceptable. Several respected members here would not accept 'educations'.
    I don't want to drag up that specific word again, but the rule is interesting.

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    Smile Re: What a pity! usage of article

    Quote Originally Posted by Raymott View Post
    We had this argument recently about "education" - that is, the argument about whether a noun taking the indefinite article implied a plural form.
    Since we can say "He has had a good education", shouldn't 'educations' be acceptable. Several respected members here would not accept 'educations'.
    I don't want to drag up that specific word again, but the rule is interesting.
    I think the plural of "education" is fine. It makes sense.

    "their educations" - Google Search=


  6. #6
    bhaisahab's Avatar
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    Default Re: What a pity! usage of article

    Quote Originally Posted by PROESL View Post
    I think the plural of "education" is fine. It makes sense.

    "their educations" - Google Search=


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    Default Re: What a pity! usage of article

    Quote Originally Posted by bhaisahab View Post
    Yes, shocking it is.

    It's much more common as an uncountable, and dictionaries do not list a plural for it. While technically correct only as an uncountable, I think it's noteworthy to observe the places it appears as a plural. It's quite a contradiction on the part of the "rule" - if it is a rule - to be able to say "an education" while at the same time calling this noun uncountable. Yes, there are exceptions, but I see this more as a contradiction in terms. We can have one, but not two?



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    I think it's noteworthy to observe the places it appears as a plural.

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    "their educations" - Google Search=

  8. #8
    Raymott's Avatar
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    Default Re: What a pity! usage of article

    Quote Originally Posted by bhaisahab View Post
    Well you were the respected member I had most in mind, bhai. Thanks for declaring yourself.
    But as I said, I didn't want to start up that particular case again - only to point out that it was a similar grammatical question.

  9. #9
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    Default Re: What a pity! usage of article



    Ironically, there was an 'uncountable' version of this idiom once. Where today we say 'It's a pity', several hundred years ago it was common to say "'Tis pity".

    b

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