[Grammar] Indefinite article put before a uncountable noun in Oxford dictionary

Status
Not open for further replies.

cubezero3

Member
Joined
May 6, 2009
Member Type
Student or Learner
Native Language
Chinese
Home Country
China
Current Location
China
There was a certain coldness in her attitude towards me.

I feel a certain reluctance to tell her the news.

At the first I thought that must be some sort of an error on the publisher's side. Then, there was another one following it. Is this a case of There are so many rules in English language but always more exceptions?:shock:

Many thanks

Richard
 
Last edited:

Raymott

VIP Member
Joined
Jun 29, 2008
Member Type
Academic
Native Language
English
Home Country
Australia
Current Location
Australia
At the first I thought that must be some sort of an error on the publisher's side. Then, there was another one following it. Is this a case of There are so many rules in English language but always more exceptions?:shock:
I think it's more a case of beginner's rules not working well for more advanced students.
Many thanks

Richard
It's not unusual for nouns that are taught as uncountable to have 'a' before them.
You can think of the above as meaning "a type of coldness", "an instance of reluctance", where the real noun is ellipted out.

She brought me a [kind of] happiness I've never known before.
This beach is blessed with a pure white [type of] sand that stretches for miles.
 
Joined
Jun 21, 2010
Member Type
English Teacher
Basically, placing an indefinite article before an abstract noun, such as coldness or reluctance, makes it more concrete than without it. The concept of quality is still remnant, but it has been modified to showcase a single instance.
 

cubezero3

Member
Joined
May 6, 2009
Member Type
Student or Learner
Native Language
Chinese
Home Country
China
Current Location
China
Can I safely think that this usage is universal and I am allowed to put an indefinate article in front of any noun generally viewed as uncountable?
 
Joined
Jun 21, 2010
Member Type
English Teacher
I was not referring to your example.

This beach is blessed with a pure white sand that stretches for miles.

I'll point out to you that sand is a mass noun, not an abstract noun.

In your example, sand is being modified by adjectives that permit an indefinite article such as a to be used. Furthermore, the initial sound of pure requires an a rather than an.

Does this help clarify things, Raymott?
 

Raymott

VIP Member
Joined
Jun 29, 2008
Member Type
Academic
Native Language
English
Home Country
Australia
Current Location
Australia
I was not referring to your example.

This beach is blessed with a pure white sand that stretches for miles.

I'll point out to you that sand is a mass noun, not an abstract noun.
It's an uncountable noun. That's the topic.
Yes, it's not an abstract noun. If it were, it would not be a counterexample to your claim that it's ok to use the indefinite article "only before abstract nouns."
To argue against that statement, one would have to produce an uncountable noun (such as sand), that was not abstract, and which could take an indefinite article - which I had done even before you made the claim.

In your example, sand is being modified by adjectives that permit an indefinite article such as a to be used.
So, you agree that your statement that you can only do this with abstract nouns has exceptions (or is wrong) - for example, when there are adjectives qualifying the uncountable noun?

Furthermore, the initial sound of pure requires an a rather than an.
Yes, I would agree with that. Was that in contention?
R.
 
Joined
Jun 21, 2010
Member Type
English Teacher
You're acting quite childish, especially for someone who is a dedicated member. Please note: I am not going to argue with your nonsensical ramblings.

I will reiterate my previous response to the original poster: In this particular case, only before abstract nouns.

PS - I'm glad you understand that sand is not an abstract noun. ;-)
 

Ouisch

Key Member
Joined
Mar 27, 2006
Member Type
English Teacher
Native Language
English
Home Country
United States
Current Location
United States
Just a caution to posters - please avoid any name-calling on the message boards. If you vehemently disagree with someone it's best to continue your debate via PM. Now, everyone shake hands and play nicely. :-D
 
Status
Not open for further replies.
Top