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    #1

    "a society" vs "society"

    Dear teachers

    I am confused about the usage of "a society" and "society". When should I use "a society", when to use "society". Especially when I write articles about child development and education system.

    I looked up Collins Cobuild, but the explainations seem having little difference to me. Please help.

    Anthony the student

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    #2

    Re: "a society" vs "society"

    Hello Anthony,
    Why don't you write a few sentences so we can advise you on which sounds more natural in context?
    I'm not a teacher, but I write for a living. Please don't ask me about 2nd conditionals, but I'm a safe bet for what reads well in (American) English.

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    #3

    Re: "a society" vs "society"

    Dear Barb,

    In the following paragraphs (from an IELTS exam sample, a very good article stated by IELTS), I can tell that "good members of society" should not be "a society", it sounds like an adjective to describe "good members". But in other sentences, I was told by my English teacher that "a society" is in general wrong.

    A child’s education is never only about learning textbook theories and basic skills. It should also include how to educate the next generation to become good members of society. This cannot be the sole responsibility of parents.

    In order to be a good member of any society, an individual must respect others and share the value system of their community. Educating children to obey rules and respect others always begins in home, and it is always thought to be the responsibility of parents as they are the first who can help children learn what is important in life, and how the children are expected to behave in a society.

    However, learning how to share the value system of a society can hardly be achieved just at home. When a child goes to school, they are entering a bigger community where teachers and classmates will have significant influence on them. At school, children have to experience working and living with people from various backgrounds. The experience can teach them how to cooperate with each other, share the value system of the school and contribute to their community.

    However, to be a valuable member of any society is not a simple skill that can be achieved within school and home. When a child grows up and enter society, they should continue to contribute to the community throughout life. As a good member of society, they should play a role model for others to follow to keep a society in tune so people can live together happily and the economy can prosper in the long term.
    Last edited by patran; 16-Feb-2012 at 07:50.

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    #4

    Re: "a society" vs "society"

    Quote Originally Posted by patran View Post
    A child’s education is never only about learning textbook theories and basic skills. It should also include how to educate the next generation to become good members of society. This cannot be the sole responsibility of parents.
    Here we are talking in general- the concept of society, in its universal sense.

    Quote Originally Posted by patran View Post
    In order to be a good member of any society, an individual must respect others and share the value system of their community. Educating children to obey rules and respect others always begins in home, and it is always thought to be the responsibility of parents as they are the first who can help children learn what is important in life, and how the children are expected to behave in a society.
    Here we're moving on to talk about individual or particular societies- any societies starts to break the universal sense down into the particular societies that exist. The rules and behaviour expected vary from society to society.

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    #5

    Re: "a society" vs "society"

    Quote Originally Posted by patran View Post
    However, to be a valuable member of any society is not a simple skill that can be achieved within school and home. When a child grows up and enter society, they should continue to contribute to the community throughout life. As a good member of society, they should play a role model for others to follow to keep a society in tune so people can live together happily and the economy can prosper in the long term.
    Again, we have the same distinction between general and individual. You could say As a good member of a society too, as a member of society is by definition a member of a society, but using it in the universal sense where it is possible makes more sense to me.


    Getting the thread back on track

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    #6

    Re: "a society" vs "society"

    Quote Originally Posted by Tdol View Post
    Again, we have the same distinction between general and individual. You could say As a good member of a society too, as a member of society is by definition a member of a society, but using it in the universal sense where it is possible makes more sense to me.


    Getting the thread back on track
    Thanks very much. Actually, I have the same thoughts of you on the usage of "society". Many teachers in Hong Kong insist that "society" is uncountable as stated in the dictionary, so I will have points deducted in examination. Now, I will use the word "society" in both general and individual sense whenever it makes more sense if my write-ups are not graded by any high school teachers here in Hong Kong.

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    #7

    Re: "a society" vs "society"

    I cannot agree with the dictionary's view that society is only uncountable. Which dictionary are you using?

    Some dictionaries clearly give it as both countable and uncountable:

    society noun (PEOPLE) - definition in British English Dictionary & Thesaurus - Cambridge Dictionary Online
    society - definition. American English definition of society by Macmillan Dictionary

    and some others that don't include that information give a plural form:

    society - Dictionary definition and pronunciation - Yahoo! Education

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    #8

    Re: "a society" vs "society"

    I use Collins Cobuild, it states society is both countable and uncountable. Well, in the classrom, we students can hardly challenge the teacher, who has the say in our grades.

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    #9

    Re: "a society" vs "society"

    That's a problem, and frustrating when you know you're right, but sometimes it's better to avoid conflict.

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