Please kindly help me understand the rules under which zero articles are used before the nouns appearing to be countable in these examples:

As will be explained in [para] 2.3, several different types of company can be registered. The contents of the application for registration depend on the type of company being registered.

A claim for misrepresentation may sometimes be a claim for breach of contract.

I had a chance to read this response (Can a singular noun follows zero-article?), which is very helpful and interesting. I wish to confirm whether my understanding is correct that 'type of company' is a compound phrase and 'a' before 'company' is redundant (my understanding is based on that response). Does this apply to 'breach of [a] contract'? Or does 'contract' have an uncountable meaning there (as the branch of law)?

Further, ‘misrepresentation’ and ‘breach’ seem to have the same meaning when used countably or uncountably (based on dictionaries). If this is so, in what contexts are the words like these used countably and uncountably? How can I resolve this if I wish to use them in a particular context?


1 Answer 1


Consider the following:

The monthly fee depends on class of service.

Time-in-transit depends on mode of transport.

Failure to deliver goods in a timely manner shall be deemed breach of contract.

Availability depends on color and size.

We are not referring here to an individual instance of a class of service but to the concept of "Class of Service", to the rubric, the category. The same is true here with "Mode of Transport", "Breach of Contract", and with "color" and "size" and "Failure" and "Availability". In that we are not referring to particular instances, this is a form of generalization.

Price is always negotiable.

  • Many thanks for this. If you do have some resources/links to this rule, I would be grateful if you could share it with me. I just want to reconcile this rule with another rule under which 'the' can be used with a singular countable noun to talk about general features or characteristics of a class of things or people rather than specific one.
    – Rashid
    Aug 30, 2018 at 20:43
  • @Rashid: They are not mutually exclusive rules. It's not the one or the other. The tiger is an endangered species. But compare the type of noun : tiger versus class, mode, failure, availability, color, size.
    – TimR
    Aug 30, 2018 at 20:51
  • To be honest I cannot understand the difference between: 'Failure to comply with an enforcement notice can result in imprisonment for up to 6 months.' and 'A failure to understand the economic environment leaves managers without a clear view of what is happening in their markets.'
    – Rashid
    Aug 30, 2018 at 21:03
  • 1
    The first is speaking about the abstraction "Failure to comply", let's call it the abstract class of said behavior. The second is speaking about an instance of that class and generalizing from that instance. A tiger is a powerful cat with four legs and a long tail and orange coloration. Or Children, who knows what a tiger is?
    – TimR
    Aug 30, 2018 at 21:06
  • 1
    @dan: You're referring to a particular instance and a particular bag, so your case is not a form of generalization. Nor is bag an abstract noun like "failure" or "transport". bag is a tangible item. Idiomatic would be I declined the offer of a bag. Idiomatic generalization: I always say no to bags. or I always say no to a bag. Finally mode of transport and offer of bag [sic] are not analogues semantically. mode is an attribute of transport or a category of transport, whereas offer is not an attribute or category of bag, rather the inverse.
    – TimR
    Sep 1, 2018 at 11:47

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