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In my vocabulary booklet for an EAL test, it has 'can achieve a work-life balance' in the booklet.

I don't think the 'a' should be there because I think 'balance' is not countable.

However, there are a few search results shown for 'can achieve a work-life balance', for example: https://www.carecareers.com.au/achieve-work-life-balance/

Are these people making mistakes or is it can be written in either way?

Thank you!

  • Strike a balance is a common phrase. Your example is along the same lines. -- I chose not to write an answer because it's quite possible that someone else can give you a more in-depth thought, when balance is conceptualized as a countable noun and when an uncountable noun. – Damkerng T. Sep 25 '16 at 11:20
  • The phrase a work-life balance is certainly in common usage, even if it's ungrammatical. I can't remember ever coming across achieve work-life balance. – Mick Sep 25 '16 at 11:54
  • @MickSharpe I googled both, it shows more results for "achieve work-life balance" (without "a"). You also said that "a work-life balance is ungrammatical", I am really confused about which one I should use. – EmmaXL Sep 25 '16 at 12:18
  • I said if it's ungrammatical. I think that it is but I may be wrong. We need an expert to help us out. I think that you're fairly safe whichever you choose. – Mick Sep 25 '16 at 12:24
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You have the option to use, or not to use, the article there. "work-life balance" often appears without the article, in which case it is presented as a state, like equilibrium, which needs no article. With the article, it is a kind of balance. What kind of balance? a work-life balance.

The article establishes (or relies upon) the idea that there is more than one kind of balance. For example, saving-spending balance, healthy foods/party foods balance, or even different kinds of work-life balance: the amount of time spent not working that one person needs might be more or less than the amount of time spent not working that another person needs.

In the same way we can use equilibrium with or without an article.

Let's say a person is standing on one foot and leaning in a certain direction, and in order not to topple over, they extend an arm in the opposite direction of their leaning, and they put their free leg also in a certain position. We could say "She has found equilibrium" to mean that she is now balanced. Or we could say that "She has found an equilibrium" to mean that she has found a particular way of achieving equilibrium, as there might have been other ways to achieve it, the leg bent in a different way, perhaps, and the arm stuck out even further.

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