I came across this question and I should decide which of these two answers is correct.

The spectators showed _____ at the unexpected victory of the local basketball team.

a) surprising

b) surprise

I am told that the correct answer is "b".

The spectators showed surprise at the unexpected victory of the local basketball team.

But I don't think that's right, because if 'surprise' is an answer, it would be 'a surprise', or 'their surprise'. Of course, "surprise" could be also used as an uncountable noun.

Which answer is correct and why?

  • We don't usually use articles with general phenomena or subjects, like surprise. For example: the student studied philosophy, not "a philosophy"; the speaker advocated democracy, not "a democracy"; curiosity can be dangerous, not "a curiosity".
    – stangdon
    Dec 7, 2016 at 17:11
  • thank you. i knew you don't use it with articles.
    – 김태경
    Dec 8, 2016 at 6:01

1 Answer 1


Surprising is an adjective that cannot be used in the sentence.

You show or express surprise. The surprise is both a countable and uncountable noun. In the context of the sentence, it's an uncountable noun meaning a feeling caused by an unusual or unexpected happening.

So the right answer is:

The spectators showed surprise..........

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