a bit of a cold, why a

Discussion in 'English Only' started by vinci61, Apr 29, 2014.

  1. vinci61 Senior Member

    Chinese
    If I were to use a bit of to quantify something, that thing should always be an uncountable noun, cause that's how it works.

    But I caught a bit of
    a cold?

    I don't understand. Thank you for your explanations, much appreciated.
     
  2. Aardvark01

    Aardvark01 Senior Member

    Midlands, England
    British English (Midlands)
    we use the indefinite article to distinguish between the adjective (I'm a bit cold as opposed to warm/hot) and the noun, which is a viral disease. We do not use the definite article (the) because there are many kinds of cold.
     
  3. vinci61 Senior Member

    Chinese
    I see what you are getting at, but I still can't understand. A bit of should associate with uncountable nouns, like a bit of dust/a little dust. If cold has an indefinite article, it should be countable, such as many people have colds today. If it is countable nouns, we would use a few instead of both a little and a bit of to describe, whatever the way, it sounds odd to me. Try I have a little cold( it becomes adjective) I have a few colds.
     
  4. Cagey post mod (English Only / Latin)

    California
    English - US
    "A bit of a cold" is a small/slight cold. Cold, as an illness, is countable. Literally 'to have a bit of a cold' would mean, 'to have a small piece of a cold'. The idiom develops out of the idea that a small piece of a cold would be a small cold.

    I wonder whether you will find the explanation in this thread helpful.
    "a bit of a + noun" vs. "a bit of + noun"
     
  5. vinci61 Senior Member

    Chinese
    So a bit of can be followed by uncountable nouns and a/an plus countable nouns. I thought a bit of equals a little. Can I say a little a cold? Why not? And also, Can I say a bit of the nouns(both countable and uncountable)? like a bit of a/the cake?
     
    Last edited: Apr 30, 2014
  6. Cagey post mod (English Only / Latin)

    California
    English - US
    A little and a bit of are two different constructions, and you can't just replace one with the other, even though they mean approximately the same thing.

    You can say a bit [of a cold]. 'Of a cold' is a prepositional phrase, modifying 'bit'.
    You can't say a little a cold. Little is an adjective modifying cold, and you don't insert an article ['a'] between little and the noun it modifies.
     
  7. vinci61 Senior Member

    Chinese
    Thank you. How about a bit of the... Can I say a bit of the cake?
    What's the difference between a bit of cake/ a bit of a cake/ a bit of the cake?
    Does a bit of only associate with uncountable nouns?
     
  8. Keith Bradford

    Keith Bradford Senior Member

    Brittany, NW France
    English (Midlands UK)
    Here, bit = piece, fragment, part, slice, etc.

    1. A bit of cake = a piece of the food called 'cake'.
    2. A bit of a cake = a piece of one of the cakes on offer
    3. A bit of the cake = a piece of that cake we talked about; a piece of the only one cake on offer.

    In examples 2 and 3, bit refers to a countable part of a countable cake. But usually we don't ask for bits of the cakes, unless we're greedy! One at a time!
     
  9. vinci61 Senior Member

    Chinese
    Thanks:)
     

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