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  1. #1
    Bennevis's Avatar
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    Default The count/non-count problem SOLVED?

    I am about to share with you an interesting view that seems to have tangibly clarified this issue for me. As the OP of this thread I call on all of you to refrain from getting personal and just focus on the issue at hand. Thank you.

    This guy (he runs his own website and has written an essay on linguistics) is being asked by a forumer called English Maiden:

    "I always thought that uncountable/abstract nouns like jewelry, news, information, beauty, anger, etc. can't be preceded by the indefinite article a/an. But I recently read in an English grammar and usage book that uncountable nouns can occur with the indefinite article when they follow an adjective as with this sentence: "There's a terrible sadness in her eyes." Is this sentence correct? Can I also construct similar sentences with other uncountable nouns like information and scenery? But sentences like "I have an amazing news for you" and "I'll show you a very beautiful jewelry" don't sound and look right to me."

    Here it is (by Joe Carillo (http://josecarilloforum.com/forum/in...opic=1565.0)):

    "Yes, an indefinite article can be routinely used to precede an adjective that premodifies an uncountable noun denoting an emotion or state, as in the example you presented: “There’s a terrible sadness in her eyes.” Below are five more examples of that usage involving uncountable nouns denoting an emotion, condition, or state:

    “There’s a certain magic in the way she sings.”
    An enigmatic joy appeared on her face.”
    “She always feigned a forceful laugh that irritated everyone.”
    “He displayed such an open admiration that bordered on obsequiousness.”
    “I could sense a brutal coldness in the way he looked at me.”

    This usage, though, doesn’t generally apply to all uncountable nouns. In particular, it doesn’t apply to an uncountable noun that’s grammatically singular but notionally plural like “news”; indeed, this is the reason why this sentence construction you presented doesn’t work: “I have an amazing news for you.” Instead, we say “I have amazing news for you,” and, if more than just one news item are involved, we say “I have two amazing bits of news for you.” Or “I have some amazing news for you.” In the case of “jewelry,” it’s also an uncountable noun that’s grammatically singular but notionally plural, so we can’t say “I’ll show you a very beautiful jewelry.” Instead, we say “I’ll show you a very beautiful jewelry collection” or ““I’ll show you five pieces of very beautiful jewelry.” For uncountable nouns, the modes of modification will vary depending on the nature and particular attributes of the particular noun, and it’s not advisable to generalize on that mode of modification until the particular uncountable noun comes up for use in a sentence.

    The uncountable nouns you cited from a previous Forum posting of mine are as follows: “depth,” “emphasis,” and “sensitivity.” “Depth,” a noun denoting state, can be grammatically and notionally singular, as in my use of it in the phrase “a false depth to what is being said.” However, it can also be used as a countable noun that’s notionally plural, as in this sentence using “depth” as a generic measure: “For technical reasons, this device won’t work at depths of 60 feet and 100 feet.” “Emphasis,” of course, is an abstract noun that’s singular both grammatically and notionally, so it can be modified with an adjective preceded by an indefinite pronoun as in that usage of mine, “a false emphasis to what is being said.” As to “sensitivity,” it’s another uncountable noun denoting state, so it can modified the way I did in that posting of mine: “a strong sensitivity to the repetition that often hides so well in such phrases.”

    I hope this explanation has further heightened your understanding of how the various kinds of uncountable nouns can be modified properly."

    I wonder if Joe could really be on to something. Let me know what you think. Thank you.

  2. #2
    Raymott's Avatar
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    Default Re: The count/non-count problem SOLVED?

    Yes, that seems to be right as far as it goes. But you don't need an adjective in order to use a/an.
    "She had a beauty the like of which I haven't seen before."
    "There's a sadness in her eyes that's been there since her dog died."
    "The was a coldness in his reply that scared me."
    ...

  3. #3
    Bennevis's Avatar
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    Default Re: The count/non-count problem SOLVED?

    Whaur is a'body?

  4. #4
    Tdol is offline Editor, UsingEnglish.com
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    Default Re: The count/non-count problem SOLVED?

    I think using count/uncountable as categories is problematic, because nouns can shift between them according to usage. It would be better to think of countability as a characteristic of usage rather than something in the DNA of each noun.

  5. #5
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    BobK is offline Harmless drudge
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    Default Re: The count/non-count problem SOLVED?

    Quote Originally Posted by Tdol View Post
    I think using count/uncountable as categories is problematic, because nouns can shift between them according to usage. It would be better to think of countability as a characteristic of usage rather than something in the DNA of each noun.

    This seems to me to say it all.

    (5jj is away. You may hear from him later, but as I believe this represents his view too I don't advise you to hold your breath.)

    b

  6. #6
    Bennevis's Avatar
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    Default Re: The count/non-count problem SOLVED?

    Quote Originally Posted by BobK View Post

    This seems to me to say it all.

    (5jj is away. You may hear from him later, but as I believe this represents his view too I don't advise you to hold your breath.)

    b
    I agree it does.

    What would you say about the following excerpt from the article mentioned above?

    "In the case of “jewelry,” it’s also an uncountable noun that’s grammatically singular but notionally plural, so we can’t say “I’ll show you a very beautiful jewelry.” Instead, we say “I’ll show you a very beautiful jewelry collection” or ““I’ll show you five pieces of very beautiful jewelry.”"

    Does this explanation finally help draw the line? I mean does it give us a clear guideline by which we can set countable nouns apart from uncountable nouns? It's obvious that if there's no way we can say "a jewelry" in English, then "jewelry" is an ineluctably uncountable noun. I need this ascertained.

  7. #7
    bhaisahab's Avatar
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    Default Re: The count/non-count problem SOLVED?

    Quote Originally Posted by Bennevis View Post
    I agree it does.

    What would you say about the following excerpt from the article mentioned above?

    "In the case of “jewelry,” it’s also an uncountable noun that’s grammatically singular but notionally plural, so we can’t say “I’ll show you a very beautiful jewelry.” Instead, we say “I’ll show you a very beautiful jewelry collection” or ““I’ll show you five pieces of very beautiful jewelry.”"

    Does this explanation finally help draw the line? I mean does it give us a clear guideline by which we can set countable nouns apart from uncountable nouns? It's obvious that if there's no way we can say "a jewelry" in English, then "jewelry" is an ineluctably uncountable noun. I need this ascertained.
    In my view "jewellery" is definitely uncountable.

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