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, 2016 at 11:25

1 Answer 1


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.


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, 2016 at 9:00
  • 1
    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. Sep 3, 2016 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, 2016 at 10:45
  • I also gave you two valid and quite common examples with no adjectives.
    – BillJ
    Sep 3, 2016 at 10:53
  • 1
    "Three more sleeps till Christmas" Sep 3, 2016 at 11:15

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