Excerpt from Bookworm IV: Full Circle by Christopher Nuttall:

Now, as darkness hung over the land, she knew what it cloaked. Farms destroyed, towns burnt, men conscripted, women raped, children butchered...

There's no article before darkness, should I understand it as "the darkness" or "a darkness"? Also what difference does it make in this context, I feel like regardless of whether it's a darkness or the darkness it doesn't make much of a difference, but I feel like it should be "the darkness" is there a reason why the author ommitted the article and what figure of speech is he using?

1 Answer 1


In this case, the lack of an article tells you that it is darkness as a mass (uncountable) noun. It is not a discrete object, nor a series of discrete objects, but a volume or mass of something (an abstract something in this case, but that's not relevant to this). This is as you might "bathe in water" or "be suffused with light", or even "eat pasta".

  • It can be countable and uncountable?
    – aLex
    Commented Mar 15, 2019 at 16:43
  • 1
    @yocu: yes. Lots of English nouns can be used both as countable and uncountable. Fish is brilliant example - that one form of the verb is the singular countable, plural countable, and uncountable noun. I imagine that can lead to a lot of confusion. It's (usually) uncountable when it's a food - most basic foodstuffs are uncountable. It countable when you're talking about actual fish as individual items.
    – SamBC
    Commented Mar 15, 2019 at 16:46

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