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Sometimes, I am confused with uncountable nouns. As far as rules are concerned, we can't use an indefinite article before a non-count noun. But at times we break the rules when it follows an adjective.

For example,

  1. Have a sound sleep. (Is sleep countable?)

  2. He has a great sense of humour. (Is sense countable?)

Please tell me with which non-count nouns I can use an indefinite article?

  • Regarding the questions in your parentheses, a decent dictionary will tell you the category of a noun. – Helmar Sep 3 '16 at 11:25
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Noncount nouns never seldom take an indefinite article (a or an) before them (refer this)

  1. Have a sound sleep.

'Sleep' is enclosed with 'sound'.

  1. He has a great sense of humour. (Not "He as a humour")

'Humour' is enclosed with 'sense'; sense is countable ('great' is an adjective to describe 'sense'). "A sense of humour" is also acceptable.

More examples:

  • A bowl of rice
  • A lot of homework
  • A piece of clothing
  • A clump of cotton
  • An ounce of toothpaste

Indefinite articles can be used when enclosing noncount nouns with other articles such as an adjective or descriptors.

Edit:

There are some idiomatic phrases that include noncount nouns with infinitive articles and also countable.

Three more sleeps till Christmas

This refers to the three nights that pass by.

Have a sleep

This is also acceptable in practice

Credits to Andrew Leach and Bill J for the counterexamples.

  • What you say generally holds true, but there are actually a very few non-count nouns (usually quantificational ones) which can take an indefinite article, for example "A number of problems remain"; "I feel a touch of frost in the air" and the like. – BillJ Sep 3 '16 at 9:00
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    Noncount nouns do take the indefinite article when identifying a particular instance of the noun. "What was that food again?" "No idea, but it was definitely a rice". In fact your "sleep" sentence is an example of this usage, because "Have a sleep" is used like that. "Never" is a bit strong, especially in bold. – Andrew Leach Sep 3 '16 at 10:07
  • @AndrewLeach: I've heard of those sentences before. In informal speech, the adjectives that describe the noncount nouns are understood and hence sometimes hidden. Just out of doubt: are you stating that those colloquial instances are grammatically correct? I'll change 'never' to 'rarely' if you prove me wrong. I'm very much interested to know; so far I've only seen 'never' use 'a' or 'an' before noncount nouns. – Ébe Isaac Sep 3 '16 at 10:45
  • I also gave you two valid and quite common examples with no adjectives. – BillJ Sep 3 '16 at 10:53
  • @BillJ: Are you stating touch and number are noncount nouns? From what I know there are touches and numbers. Sorry but I need more counterexamples to confirm (and I'm willing to confirm if there are). – Ébe Isaac Sep 3 '16 at 11:01

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