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    #1

    Background

    I have a question about the usage of background. According to this dictionary, "background", in the sense of the type of family, social class, or training, is countable. But then there is this:

    An Irishman of modest background, he takes a job at an exclusive London club, helping its rich members polish their ground strokes.
    ,where "an Irishman of modest background" is missing some article before "modest background". Could this be a slight editorial oversight?

  1. MikeNewYork's Avatar
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    #2

    Re: Background

    No. An article is not used in that comstruction.

    John was a man of modest means.

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    #3

    Re: Background

    So, the dictionary is missing something, and this sense of "background" has both countable and uncountable forms?

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    #4

    Re: Background

    "Of modest background" is an adjective, which should be singular.

    not a teacher

  2. MikeNewYork's Avatar
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    #5

    Re: Background

    It is adjectival, but I would call it a prepositional phrase.

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    #6

    Re: Background

    Quote Originally Posted by learningspirit View Post
    So, the dictionary is missing something, and this sense of "background" has both countable and uncountable forms?
    I am not a teacher.

    Different people can have different backgrounds, but each person has a background.

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    #7

    Re: Background

    @MikeNewYork

    Would "an Irishman of a modest background" be just as good?

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    #8

    Re: Background

    Not for me. I would use "from a modest background".

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    #9

    Re: Background

    @MikeNewYork

    Would "an Irishman from modest background", where the uncountable form of "background" is used, be okay?

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    #10

    Re: Background

    It is possible, but it would not be my choice.

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