A(n) + ... + abstract noun/ A(n) + abstract noun

HSS

Senior Member
Standard Japanese, Sendaian Japanese
Collins Cobuild English Guides says "Many abstract uncount nouns, that is, nouns referring to things which cannot be seen, touched or measured, can be used with the indifinite article when an adjective is used with them," and goes on to show us some examples:

... a passionate hatred of feminists.
... working up a passing anger.
... a certain quaint charm.
(no accompanying context in the book)

They say, "You don't have to use the indefinite article with such nouns just because of the adjectives," but could you just use the indefinite article if there is any adjective (or any modifying word, phrase, expression, clause etc.)?

Take this for example:
Susan was beaming. She seemed to be in high spirits. She was enjoying beautiful love; she was in love with a man from a town two hundred miles away.
Susan was beaming. She seemed to be in high spirits. She was enjoying a beautiful love; she was in love with a man from a town two hundred miles away.
 
  • HSS

    Senior Member
    Standard Japanese, Sendaian Japanese
    [...]

    They say, "You don't have to use the indefinite article with such nouns just because of the adjectives," but could you just use the indefinite article if there is any adjective (or any modifying word, phrase, expression, clause etc.)?

    Take this for example:
    Susan was beaming. She seemed to be in high spirits. She was enjoying beautiful love; she was in love with a man from a town two hundred miles away.
    Susan was beaming. She seemed to be in high spirits. She was enjoying a beautiful love; she was in love with a man from a town two hundred miles away.
    My question must have been hard to see ...:)
     

    Beryl from Northallerton

    Senior Member
    British English
    Let's see if I've understood this correctly.
    Are you asking whether all adjectives in this context (ie. adjectives qualifying an uncountable abstract noun) can be preceded by an indefinite article?
    Or are you asking whether such a construction is limited to the adjectives listed above, ie. 'passionate', 'passing' and 'quaint'?
     

    HSS

    Senior Member
    Standard Japanese, Sendaian Japanese
    I'm asking if you always or nearly always have an option to use 'a(n)' before a noun if there is an adjective or a phrase, expression, clause, etc. modifying it. (I doubt it. I guess you need to have a certain degree of qualification that those modifiers bring to the noun, don't you? Could you say 'a beautiful love' as in the second sentence of my examples?)

    Hiro
     

    Beryl from Northallerton

    Senior Member
    British English
    I think you could say 'a beautiful love'. You can certainly say 'a great love'.

    Cobuild is saying that you can do this with many 'abstract uncount nouns', and I suspect that this is true. They make no claim that this is true for all such nouns.

    By way of a couple of counter examples (though we only really need one), you can't say 'a specific advice' or 'an interesting information'. For these, you would need to insert (something like) 'kind of'.
    eg. 'a specific type of advice' or 'an interesting kind of information'.

    You could also use a more appropriate determiner, eg. 'some helpful advice' or 'some trivial information'.
     

    RM1(SS)

    Senior Member
    English - US (Midwest)
    Take this for example:
    Susan was beaming. She seemed to be in high spirits. She was enjoying beautiful love; she was in love with a man from a town two hundred miles away.
    Susan was beaming. She seemed to be in high spirits. She was enjoying a beautiful love; she was in love with a man from a town two hundred miles away.
    I would say that only the second version is correct.

    But "they" did not say - must, but only -have to.
    must - this is "no questions"
    have to - "depends on you" :)
    "Have to do" = "Must do" Both indicate a requirement, not an option.
     

    HSS

    Senior Member
    Standard Japanese, Sendaian Japanese
    I think you could say 'a beautiful love'. You can certainly say 'a great love'.
    [...]
    I would say that only the second version (a beautiful love) is correct.
    [...]
    ('a beautiful love' is inserted by HSS)
    English Cobuild Dictionary
    Macmillan Dictionary
    Cambridge Dictionaries Online

    The definitions in the dictionaries I looked in only tell us 'love' in this sense is uncountable. Could I presume in AE the word would be more affected by modifiers and be easily become countable than in BE?
     

    Beryl from Northallerton

    Senior Member
    British English
    I'm not sure what you're driving at, HSS. Macmillan is an American dictionary. And was it not Cobuild (BrE) that was suggesting that in many cases you can say exactly that sort of thing, eg. 'He had a great love of heraldry' ?
     

    HSS

    Senior Member
    Standard Japanese, Sendaian Japanese
    I'm not sure what you're driving at, HSS. Macmillan is an American dictionary. And was it not Cobuild (BrE) that was suggesting that in many cases you can say exactly that sort of thing, eg. 'He had a great love of heraldry' ?
    I asked that question simply because you speak BE and RM1(SS) speak AE. You said either and RM1(SS) said he/she would say only 'a beautiful love' is possible. There is a possibility in AE 'love' would be more affected by modifiers and be easily become countable than in BE?
     

    HSS

    Senior Member
    Standard Japanese, Sendaian Japanese
    How about 'dissatisfaction' and 'disappointment'? Would you say 'a' or not?

    That failure caused a great dissatisfaction/ a great disappointment to his followers. They had devoutly believed in him, but ever since he failed to make the wish come true, some people left the church.
    That failure caused great dissatisfaction/ great disappointment to his followers. They had devoutly believed in him, but ever since he failed to make the wish come true, some people left the church.
     

    Beryl from Northallerton

    Senior Member
    British English
    For me, it's either/or in both cases ('dissatisfaction' and 'disappointment'), subject to some small changes in the wording of the sentence.

    Where did you find your latest sentence, HSS?

    (Sorry I missed your previous post (#12), - I think I only made mention of 'a beautiful love')
     

    HSS

    Senior Member
    Standard Japanese, Sendaian Japanese
    Good morning, Beryl.

    Ooops, always cite the source of the examples. They were my renditions, Beryl. So you would say either 'a great dissatisfaction/ disappointment' or just 'great dissatisfaction/ disappointment,' right?

    Oh, so you only say 'a great love.' I see.

    That makes it hard to tell whether I should go with 'a(n)' or without. I've believed there are only two cases with uncountable abstract with modifiers: 1) You can choose between 'with' and 'without' the indefinite article, or 2) You cannot use the indefinite article (when the noun's abstractness is really strong). Now I'm seeing another case where 3) You only have to use the indefinite article (when, I think, the noun's abstractness can easily go away with modifiers, and become countable): a great love.

    (I know 'a great love' could refer to your sweetheart, but this is not the case. It's affection you hold toward your opposite gender)

    I hope I'm making sense ....

    Thanks, Beryl.
     

    Beryl from Northallerton

    Senior Member
    British English
    I gave the example of having a great love of heraldry, but it could equally well have been model train sets, or if the passion were not so great, you could simply say he had a love of fly-fishing, or weaker still, he had a liking for omelettes or he had a dislike of cats - (that could be a new collective noun).
     
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