a + toothache/backache/earache

sb70012

Senior Member
Hello,
Why can't we use the indefinite article "a" before "earache" but can use it before "toothache" and "backache"?

I mean why can't we say "I have an earache." whereas we can say "I have a backache." or "I have a toothache."

Thank you.
 
  • sb70012

    Senior Member
    Wait ...
    I'm getting more and more confused:

    Do you mean:
    I have an earache. :tick:
    I have earache. :cross:

    I have a backache. :cross:
    I have backache. :tick:

    I have a toothache. :cross:
    I have toothache. :tick:

    Do you mean this? If you mean this, then why "earache" can get "a" but "backache" and "toothache" cannot?
     

    User With No Name

    Senior Member
    English
    Do you mean:
    I have an earache. :tick:
    I have earache. :cross:

    I have a backache. :cross:
    I have backache. :tick:

    I have a toothache. :cross:
    I have toothache. :tick:
    In my variety of English, this is simply wrong. I would say:

    I have an earache.
    I have a backache.
    I have a toothache.

    In all cases, leaving out the article might not be completely impossible, but it would be unusual.
     

    heypresto

    Senior Member
    English - England
    Look at Longman dictionary's example:

    ear‧ache /"ûëreûk $ "ûr-/ [singular, uncountable]
    I've got terrible earache and a sore throat.


    As you see in this example the author hasn't used "an" and he has mentioned that this word is uncountable.
    In the WR Dictionary it's given in both forms:

    WordReference Random House Learner's Dictionary of American English © 2020
    ear•ache /ˈɪrˌeɪk/ n. [countable]
    1. Pathology a pain or ache in the ear.

    WordReference Random House Unabridged Dictionary of American English © 2020
    ear•ache (ērāk′),n.
    1. Pathology pain in the ear; otalgia.
     
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