3

Laptop is a countable noun and I understand it is a general meaning here. I know it's correct to say it like this and it feels natural. But why is it so exactly? Why is there zero article?

6
  • 4
    @WS2 You mean: “Whose is that laptop?”, or better still “Whose laptop is that?”
    – tchrist
    Feb 18 '18 at 16:45
  • @tchrist Sorry. My bad. I thing it was when the doorbell rang and my wife shouted "Who's that at the door".
    – WS2
    Feb 18 '18 at 18:26
  • 4
    "What" is an interrogative determiner, and since nouns can't have two determiners it is not permitted to add a further one like an article.
    – BillJ
    Feb 18 '18 at 18:39
  • 1
    @WS2 Haven't you had time to delete? What does 'A preposition can replace an article with any countable noun' mean? Feb 18 '18 at 19:21
  • @EdwinAshworth Exactly what it says - the train - that train, a house - this house.
    – WS2
    Feb 19 '18 at 16:51
8

What is a determiner in that sentence. The fact that laptop is a countable noun doesn't matter - you'd also ask what dog do you have?.

Articles are also determiners, and you don't generally use two determiners for the same noun (there are some exceptions, as @NigelJ mentions). So when you use what, you don't add an article.

For more information on determiners, see for instance wikipedia.

What (or which) can of course also be an interrogative pronoun, but here it is an interrogative determinatives (functioning as an interrogative determiner). In a sentence like

What laptop is the best laptop?

Which is a determiner for the first occurrence of laptop, and the for the second occurrence of laptop. Of course, we usually omit one of the two laptops in such a sentence, but the determiners remain:

Which laptop is the best?
Which is the best laptop?

11
  • 1
    " you don't use two determiners for the same noun" - but (Wiki) "Determiners can also be used in certain combinations, as in my many friends or all the chairs."
    – user63615
    Feb 18 '18 at 16:33
  • 1
    @NigelJ Good point, I added a bit of nuance to that statement.
    – oerkelens
    Feb 18 '18 at 16:45
  • What about: Which/what is the best laptop? Or "Which of these laptop brands is [the one] used in your school?"
    – Mari-Lou A
    Feb 18 '18 at 16:58
  • What or which are used as determiners but are really pronouns....It's considered colloquially acceptable but....
    – Lambie
    Feb 18 '18 at 17:07
  • 1
    So "what/which" are also interrogative pronouns, and I think that should be mentioned
    – Mari-Lou A
    Feb 18 '18 at 17:35

You must log in to answer this question.