a background knowledge / good technical knowledge

Meluzyna

New Member
Polish
Hello everybody!

I've always thought that "knowledge" is uncountable and therefore we don't add "a" before the noun.
However in Online Longman Dictionary I've found these 2 examples:
1) salesmen with good technical knowledge of what they are selling
2) someone with a background knowledge of engineering

I don't understand why there's no article in the first example and one in the second...
 
  • owlman5

    Senior Member
    English-US
    Hello, Meluzyna.

    Most of the time, I hear and read "knowledge" used without any article. Occasionally, I hear somebody use "knowledge" with the article "a". When people use "knowledge" with the article, they generally modify the noun with some adjective. When "knowledge" is used this way, it implies that there are other types of knowledge: She has a thorough knowledge of Polish grammar. (Some people's knowledge of Polish grammar is not thorough. Her knowledge is thorough.)

    Welcome to the forum.
     

    TommyGun

    Senior Member
    Hello, Meluzyna.

    Most of the time, I hear and read "knowledge" used without any article. Occasionally, I hear somebody use "knowledge" with the article "a". When people use "knowledge" with the article, they generally modify the noun with some adjective. When "knowledge" is used this way, it implies that there are other types of knowledge: She has a thorough knowledge of Polish grammar. (Some people's knowledge of Polish grammar is not thorough. Her knowledge is thorough.)

    Welcome to the forum.
    I want an assistant with (a/-) knowledge of French and experience of office routine.

    This sentence is from my English grammar exercises, and what interesting is that the presence of the 'a' is the only right choice in the keys.

    That stumped me, and the question is if there is any perceived difference between the following sentences?

    1. I want an assistant with a knowledge of French and experience of office routine.
    2. I want an assistant with knowledge of French and experience of office routine.
     

    owlman5

    Senior Member
    English-US
    Although I don't care much for "experience of office routine", I don't think the presence an article there would make me like it any better.

    I suppose that your grammar prefers the version with "a" because they want the writer to emphasize that a knowledge of French is different from other types of knowledge, Tommy Gunn. Once again, I don't care much for "knowledge of French", but using "a knowledge of French" doesn't really improve that sentence much, if any. I'd rewrite the whole thing if it were my work.

    Grammar exercises often produce confusion. I find it especially hard to comment on them when I haven't read the chapter that precedes those exercises. If I had read the chapter, I might have a better idea of why the answer key suggests that one answer is the only correct one.
     

    panjandrum

    Lapsed Moderator
    English-Ireland (top end)
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