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  1. Newbie
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      • Native Language:
      • Polish
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      • Poland
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      • Poland

    • Join Date: Nov 2010
    • Posts: 4

    a (deep) knowledge

    The question is very simple: Can we use the articles a/an before the world 'knowledge'?

    The answer seems to be plain and simple. Knowledge is an uncountable noun and has no plural form, thus no articles are allowed.

    Yet when we take a closer look, it turns out that the phrase "a deep knowledge" ('deep' being a random adjective) it is commonly found in sources known for their good English. Here is a customised Google search result for that phrase. Below are some example:

    Source: University of Oxford, Department of Computer Science
    Text: Just as advances in engineering rely on a deep foundational knowledge of physics, so too advances in algorithms and programming rely on a deep knowledge of the intrinsic nature of computation.

    Text: Research to develop a deep knowledge of who the service users are and what that means for digital and assisted digital service design.

    Source: The Higher Education Academy
    Text: "critical thinking includes a deep knowledge of oneself, which takes both intellectual courage and humility.

    And it goes on and on... The COCA (Corpus of Contemporary American English) turns up 34 results for "a deep knowledge". Those are usually the places that linguists go to check out the grammatical correctness (by analysing the prevalence of the word/phrase in question).

    So my question is how that grammatical rule translates to real English? Are all those authors writing in respectable media and on those websites (Oxford, Guardian, CNN, BBC, New York Times, etc.) simply wrong? Or is there something more to it?

  2. Moderator
    Retired English Teacher
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    Re: a (deep) knowledge

    Welcome to the forums.

    Quote Originally Posted by Spemex View Post
    The question is very simple: Can we use the articles a/an before the world 'knowledge'?
    The answer is simple, too: yes — when an adjective modifies the word 'knowledge' or other uncountable noun or an adjectival phrase follows it.

    'He loved him with a love that dared not speak its name.'

    'The dissidents were persecuted with a cruelty unsurpassed since the Inquisition.'

    'Paris in the spring has an indescribable beauty.'

    Last edited by Rover_KE; 24-May-2014 at 18:30.

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