a bit of a cold, why a

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.
 
  • Aardvark01

    Senior Member
    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.
     

    vinci61

    Senior Member
    Chinese
    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.
    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.
     

    Cagey

    post mod (English Only / Latin)
    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"
     

    vinci61

    Senior Member
    Chinese
    "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"
    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:

    Cagey

    post mod (English Only / Latin)
    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.
     

    vinci61

    Senior Member
    Chinese
    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.
    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?
     

    Keith Bradford

    Senior Member
    English (Midlands UK)
    ... the difference between a bit of cake/ a bit of a cake/ a bit of the cake?
    ...
    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!
     

    vinci61

    Senior Member
    Chinese
    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!
    Thanks:)
     
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