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  1. Newbie
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    #1

    a + comparative + uncountable noun

    Hello everyone!

    It's clearly stated in English grammar books that indefinite article "a" cannot be used before uncountable and plural nouns. But I recently came across the following example that seems to be breaking the rule:
    ... these were not the only supportive elements flowing through the landscape. They (the ancient Chinese philosophers) perceived a subtler energy, calling it 'chi' or 'cosmic breath'.
    As the noun "energy" is always uncountable, the only explanation I've come up with, is that in "a subtler energy" the use of the article "a" emphasizes that this energy is separate from all other kinds of energy... but I have big doubts about that. Anyway, am I right or is there something else going on?

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    #2

    Re: a + comparative + uncountable noun

    Quote Originally Posted by arniky View Post
    Hello everyone!

    It's clearly stated in English grammar books that indefinite article "a" cannot be used before uncountable and plural nouns. But I recently came across the following example that seems to be breaking the rule:


    As the noun "energy" is always uncountable, the only explanation I've come up with, is that in "a subtler energy" the use of the article "a" emphasizes that this energy is separate from all other kinds of energy... but I have big doubts about that. Anyway, am I right or is there something else going on?
    Welcome to the board, arnicky.

    Yes, you are right.

    When an uncountable noun is modified like that, it is usually preceded by an article.

    'He has a certain charm about him.'

    I disagree that 'the indefinite article "a" cannot be used before uncountable [. . .] nouns.'

    'She has a beauty other women envy.'

    'My son shows an intelligence uncommon in one so young.'

    Rover

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    #3

    Re: a + comparative + uncountable noun

    Rover_KE, thank you very much for clarifying it!

  3. 5jj's Avatar
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    #4

    Re: a + comparative + uncountable noun

    Quote Originally Posted by Rover_KE View Post
    I disagree that 'the indefinite article "a" cannot be used before uncountable [. . .] nouns.'

    'She has a beauty other women envy.'

    'My son shows an intelligence uncommon in one so young.'
    I disagree with the implication that the indefinite article can be used before uncountable nouns.

    Personally, I don't think that there are any such things as uncountable nouns. I think that there are nouns that are used primarily in an uncountable sense; indeed, there are some that are used almost exclusively in this way. However, it is possible to consider anything denoted by an 'uncountable noun' as countable - as in arniky's and Rover's example.

  4. freezeframe's Avatar
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    #5

    Re: a + comparative + uncountable noun

    Quote Originally Posted by fivejedjon View Post
    I disagree with the implication that the indefinite article can be used before uncountable nouns.

    Personally, I don't think that there are any such things as uncountable nouns.
    I object to the assumption that there are such things as any kinds of nouns.

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