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Subject: the article A
Question: Hello I found the following information about the indefinite article ''a'' in Oxford Advanced Learner's Dictionary: ''used before uncountable nouns when these have an adjective in front of them, or phrase following them. For example: * a good knowledge of French * a sadness that won't go away Well, here is my question: Honestly, I don't understand the information. Oxford Advanced Learner's Dictionary says that the indefinite article ''a'' is used before uncountable nouns when these have an adjective in front of them. But, as far as I know, the indefinite article ''a'' cannot be used in front of uncountable nouns. Does the information mean that we can ALWAYS use the indefinite article ''a'' in front of uncountable nouns that have an adjective in front of them? Is it a rule? Please explain your reasons. Thank you
Reply: The rules for article use are very complicated and one can often find counterexamples to a generalization. Having said that, I agree with Dr Fischer's comments. The semantics of an uncountable does imply that rules such as pluralization or specifying a single instance out should not make sense. In normal conversation, "knowledges" or "sadnesses" sounds odd. As Dr Fischer noted, when you modify an uncountable with an adjective or some sort of relative clause or phrase, the semantics then suggests you can classify different types of kinds of an uncountable. So, it then becomes countable and you can then add articles or sometimes use even pluralization ('e.g. "our different freedoms").
Reply From: Elizabeth J Pyatt      click here to access email
Date: 25-Jul-2013
Other Replies:
  1. Re: the article A    Susan D Fischer     (24-Jul-2013)
  2. Re: the article A    Anthea Fraser Gupta     (25-Jul-2013)

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