Should we say, "You are getting a flu." or "You are getting flu." ?

In an exercise in a grammar book, the answer is given as the latter case. However, we normally say, "I have a headache," which involves using "a" here. Why don't we say "getting a flu" instead of "getting flu"?

  • 1
    If you were to read some novels of the 1930s, you might meet 'getting a flu' more commonly than 'getting flu'. But now it sounds very old-fashioned. Articles are bothersome things; it takes 70 years to learn how everybody uses them, and then you find that the rules have changed. / 'I have a backache' and 'I have backache' are probably about as popular. Or should that be unpopular? Commented Sep 9, 2017 at 16:46
  • 3
    I'd actually say "getting the flu".
    – rjpond
    Commented Sep 9, 2017 at 16:47
  • @rjpond According to GoogleNgrams, since 1994 it's the in thing even among Brits. But not the yuppie flu. Commented Sep 9, 2017 at 16:51

1 Answer 1


Flu is considered as uncountable whereas headache is countable. The indefinite article a/an cannot be used before uncountable nouns.

  • flu (fluː ) uncountable noun [oft the NOUN]
    • headache (hedeɪk ) Word forms: plural headaches
      1. countable noun
  • But Wiktionary has: << flu (usually uncountable, plural flus) >>. 'Flu' is usually considered as uncountable, and best used as such nowadays. Commented Sep 9, 2017 at 22:03

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