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  1. Senior Member
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    #1

    The athlete had (a) surgery on his knee.

    1 - The athlete had surgery on his knee (The Free Dictionary)
    2 - He has had three surgeries on his wrist in the past two years (Cambridge Dictionary)

    I can't understand when surgery is a countable and when it's an uncountable noun. Can't I say The athlete had one (a) surgery on his knee last year?

  2. Senior Member
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    #2

    Re: The athlete had (a) surgery on his knee.

    "One"/"A" would not be necessary if the surgery occurred once. "Surgeries" can be used with or without the number of occasions, but without the number the reader/listener would understand only that the surgery occurred two or more times.

  3. jutfrank's Avatar
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    #3

    Re: The athlete had (a) surgery on his knee.

    I have to say I had no idea that surgery could be used as a countable noun to mean 'operation'.

    Cambridge lists it as American English usage. It absolutely does not work in British English. It sounds very wrong to me.

    Would other American members please confirm that this is actually correct in American English?

  4. jutfrank's Avatar
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    #4

    Re: The athlete had (a) surgery on his knee.

    Quote Originally Posted by jutfrank View Post
    Would other American members please confirm that this is actually correct in American English?
    Forget that. I've answered my own question.

    As soon as I wrote post #3, I heard an American doctor on TV say: He had a number of surgeries on this leg.

    He also used the word in a singular form, in a way that seemed to be a countable use: The reason for this particular surgery was, um, to offload parts of his foot ...


    If anyone wants to hear: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gjG6qIfoMeI (9:08-9:25)
    Last edited by jutfrank; 18-Nov-2019 at 22:48.

  5. Editor, UsingEnglish.com
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    #5

    Re: The athlete had (a) surgery on his knee.

    I'd use operations but I have heard surgeries enough for it to sound normal to me.

  6. jutfrank's Avatar
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    #6

    Re: The athlete had (a) surgery on his knee.

    Quote Originally Posted by Tdol View Post
    I'd use operations but I have heard surgeries enough for it to sound normal to me.
    I heard it again today. This time from an American colleague. I obviously just hadn't noticed it.

  7. Editor, UsingEnglish.com
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    #7

    Re: The athlete had (a) surgery on his knee.

    I live in Asia and hear a lot of American English- I have moved around so much that my English is something of a mélange.

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    #8

    Re: The athlete had (a) surgery on his knee.

    Just another example of how common usage of incorrect grammar gradually makes it acceptable.

  9. jutfrank's Avatar
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    #9

    Re: The athlete had (a) surgery on his knee.

    Quote Originally Posted by J&K Tutoring View Post
    Just another example of how common usage of incorrect grammar gradually makes it acceptable.
    I think one could just as well see this as an issue of vocabulary, rather than grammar. In its countable use, a surgery has come to be used to mean ' a surgical operation'.

    In British English, a surgery can also be used to refer to a place where doctors work. Is that ever the case in American English?

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    #10

    Re: The athlete had (a) surgery on his knee.

    Quote Originally Posted by jutfrank View Post
    In British English, a surgery can also be used to refer to a place where doctors work. Is that ever the case in American English?
    No. That usage is a strong marker of British English for us.
    I am not a teacher.

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