a wonderful sympathy and freemasonry

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Tyrion Lann

Senior Member
INDIA -Hindi
There is a wonderful sympathy and freemasonry among horsy men.

Source: from the novel "The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes- A Scandal in Bohemia " by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.

Why has the indefinite article been used before the word "wonderful", though the noun freemasonry is an uncountable noun, and if the meaning of the noun" sympathy" is "friendship and understanding between people who have similar opinions or interests"; it is an uncountable noun too?
 
  • lingobingo

    Senior Member
    English - England
    sympathy: Understanding between people; common feeling.
    freemasonry: Instinctive sympathy or fellow feeling between people with something in common.

    This is how the two words are being used in your sentence, almost as synonyms. And yes, they’re both mass/uncountable nouns, in that they cannot be made plural in this usage.

    But despite the “rule” about not being able to use an indefinite article with a mass noun, it’s absolutely fine in certain cases — especially when preceding an adjective modifying a noun for a type of emotion/feeling.

    There was a certain empathy between them
    He felt an utter loathing for that type of person
    She has an excellent knowledge of the subject
    The children have a deep distrust of their uncle
     

    Tyrion Lann

    Senior Member
    INDIA -Hindi
    So, when an uncountable noun defines a sort of feeling or emotion we can use an indefinite article with some adjectives before it, and it would be considered grammatically correct, wouldn't it?
     

    lingobingo

    Senior Member
    English - England
    In many cases, yes. They are exceptions to the rule, and can also work without an adjective, e.g.

    She has a love of poetry that goes back to her childhood.​
     
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