My new phone has a much longer battery life.

The sentence is copied from Cambridge dictionary. Why they have used “a” with uncountable noun "life"?

Also can we write "a much"? We use much with uncountable noun, and "a" is only used with singular countable noun. There must be some mistake.

  • In your example, either or both of a and much can be omitted, giving 4 different phrasing which are all syntactically valid and mean the same thing - except that versions including much emphasise that the battery life of the new phone is significantly longer than that of some other phone (probably, but not necessarily, the speaker's previous phone). This isn't quite the same with My new phone has a much larger screen, where much is still "optional", but you can't do without the article a. Nov 2, 2018 at 16:18
  • @FumbleFingers Yours would be a much better answer, if you posted it.
    – Lambie
    Nov 2, 2018 at 16:29
  • @Lambie: I don't understand the relevance of "countable" here, so I don't know how to address the specific point (misunderstanding?) that's causing problems for OP. Nor do I know off the top of my head why the article is required with my "screen" example, but optional with OP's "battery life". Nov 2, 2018 at 16:33
  • @FumbleFingers Sure you do: I have a green apple on the table. My phone has a battery life of 12 hours. General statement. She has a nice friend.
    – Lambie
    Nov 2, 2018 at 16:42
  • @Lambie: My phone has [a] battery life measured in days, not hours seems fine to me with or without the article. And although my first "screen" example only works with the article, if I change it to screen size the article becomes optional, as with OP's. It's all very well being able to say whether any given version is acceptable or not, but I don't know how to formally describe whatever rule(s) are involved here. And I assume that's what any truly committed learner would want to know. Nov 2, 2018 at 17:17

1 Answer 1


The mistake is in categorising life as uncountable. While life on its own is often uncountable, here it's only part of the noun, and it's being used to mean capacity. The full noun is battery life, which is countable. A unit like a phone only has a single battery capacity or battery life, so the determiner a is appropriate.

Much here is intensifying longer, and longer is modifying battery life.

So the structure is "My new phone has a ". If we build it word by word, we get:

My new phone has a battery

The phone has a single battery; the determiner a is therefore appropriate.

My new phone has a battery life

Again - the phone has only one battery, and the battery has a specified capacity.

My new phone has a longer battery life

We add in the modifier that shows the battery capacity of this phone is greater than an older model. Now we finish with

My new phone has a much longer battery life

This indicates that the battery capacity of the new phone is a lot greater than an older model.

  • Although, while not something that would be normally be used, if it only gets its power from an adapter—let's say it had no battery at all—it would be grammatical to say that the phone has no battery life. (Without the article. "Doesn't have a battery life," with the article, would also be fine.) Nov 2, 2018 at 18:53

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