Good memory vs a good memory

Evgen

Senior Member
Russian, Ukrainian
Hi everyone!
Why do we use memory with an undefined article in the phrase "I have a good memory"?
I would like to say about memorising abilities, not about some recollection.
Is the word "memory" appropriate in the context?
 
  • Wordy McWordface

    Senior Member
    SSBE (Standard Southern British English)
    Yes, it is appropriate. That is one of the meanings of the word 'memory'. It's meaning #2 here:
    memory - WordReference.com Dictionary of English

    For example:
    "Grandma's memory isn't too good any more. She used to have a really good memory when she was younger, but these days she often forgets things"
    or
    "I recognise you but can't remember your name. I have a great memory for faces but a terrible memory for names!"

    Why the indefinite article? Because 'a [qualitative adjective] memory' describes a kind of attribute, like having "a great sense of humour", for example. We're all different when it comes to our ability to recall information: one person might have a good memory and another might have a bad memory.
     
    Last edited:

    Evgen

    Senior Member
    Russian, Ukrainian
    Because 'a [qualitative adjective] memory' describes a kind of attribute, like having "a great sense of humour", for example.
    I thought the word "memory" is uncountable without any conditions, for all its meanings...
    Actually, I don't see much difference between the first and the second meanings in WR dictionary from the link above...

    I wouldn't say the phrases "a dood memory" and "a good sense of humor" are the same in grammar sense. In the last one we have the word "sense", that is countable. I mean, It had to be "a good ability of memorising" then, but even for me it sounds a little bit awkward.
     

    Wordy McWordface

    Senior Member
    SSBE (Standard Southern British English)
    I thought the word "memory" is uncountable without any conditions, for all its meanings...
    Then you were mistaken. We often use 'memory' as a countable noun.
    I wouldn't say the phrases "a dood memory" and "a good sense of humor" are the same in grammar sense.
    And I don't understand why you think they are different
    In the last one we have the word "sense", that is countable.
    Yes. And in the first, we have the word 'memory', which is countable.
    I mean, It had to be "a good ability of memorising" then,
    ????? What do you mean It had to be?
    but even for me it sounds a little bit awkward.
    Not just awkward. Completely unidiomatic.

    Correct English: He has a good memory.
    Incorrect English: He has a good ability of memorising.

    Take it or leave it.
     

    Myridon

    Senior Member
    English - US
    I wouldn't say the phrases "a dood memory" and "a good sense of humor" are the same in grammar sense. In the last one we have the word "sense", that is countable. I mean, It had to be "a good ability of memorising" then, but even for me it sounds a little bit awkward.
    What you say is not correct though. The only difference grammatically is that "memory" is a simple noun and "sense of humor" is a noun phrase. They are both grammatically acting as nouns.
     
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