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First, the word accommodation is a mass noun:

accommodation (mass noun) - A room, group of rooms, or building in which someone may live or stay

This is chiefly in BrE. I got it. Next to this on that page we find is...

accommodations (chiefly North American) -Lodgings, sometimes also including board.

Now, how do British refer to more than one accommodation? The reverse, how do Americans refer to a single accommodation?

In India, Do they provide an accommodation? is spoken thousands of times a day. Please confirm that it is utterly incorrect.

Here is a piece from Swan's Practical English.

From Swan's Book

PS: This confuses me further!

"They sat there for a week, waiting for an accommodation which turned out to be..." - CNN

What is it finally? A countable noun, non countable noun, mass noun?

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    This one is a head-scratcher for me at the moment! As a Br-Eng speaker I can confirm that for me it's an uncountable noun. "An accommodation" sounds very unnatural to me. I'm having difficulty explaining further at the moment. – JMB Apr 3 '14 at 10:18
  • Accommodation as a place to stay is uncountable in BrE. According to Macmillan Dictionary, accommodations (always plural) in AmE can mean the same thing. So in BrE and AmE, it's either accommodation or accommodations. An accommodation in the news (CNN) seems to be an act of accommodating, I believe. – Damkerng T. Apr 3 '14 at 10:27
  • @JMB That's what confuses me too. Though Indian dialect follows British (because we learned from you...lol) it's common to say an accommodation. From where did it come, I still don't find it. – Maulik V Apr 3 '14 at 10:28
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    I would say that Do they provide an accommodation? is ambiguous. To me, it doesn't sound like they're talking about a place (to stay), but more of an act of accommodating (someone). – Damkerng T. Apr 3 '14 at 10:30
  • +1 @DamkerngT. true but then why put an article? Also, if that's the case why put provide? You provide something (noun) right? As in - Do they provide driving a car? OVER Do they provide car? – Maulik V Apr 3 '14 at 10:31
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In British English, an accommodation is a state of affairs wherein someone is made comfortable. The opposite of a discommodation, which is a much more rarely used word.

So when used in the sense of a place to stay, accommodation is provided to someone to make them comfortable when away from home. A hotel or a friend will accommodate the traveller. A hotel can be referred to as providing accommodation in general terms or an accommodation of an individual or group.

The word is not normally used to refer to a person's own house. Although it is used when someone lives in a house for a finite time. For example, if someone spends a period of months working away from home then they may live for a while in accommodation.

Without a bit more context, I assume your CNN reference relates to a political accommodation of some event or state of affairs. It implies that there is accession to the demands of another - by accommodating demands, he is made comfortable or happy.

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In BrE accomodation is used as an uncountable noun. You can say - A hotel offers food and accomodation. You can't say *an accomodation or *accomodations.

It is really not easy to explain such particularities of nouns. And in English uncountable nouns have no clear markers that would allow to see that a noun is uncountable. It is a thing of convention. Actually the noun accomodation is seen as a kind of act: the offering of lodging. It is not something understood as something concrete like a house or a flat or a room. And as "accomodation" is seen as a kind of act offered to someone there is no use with the indefinite article or a plural. The noun is handled as nouns for substances like water, sugar etc.

The funny thing is that other variants of English, NAmE or IndianE understand accomodation not as an act of offering something, but as something concrete like a flat or simply a room. And in these variants of English accomodation is treated as a countable noun. So one can say countability or uncountability of a noun depends sometimes on the concept the users have of this noun.

  • Not part of the question, but relevant: "accomodation" is a very common misspelling of "accommodation" among native speakers ;-) – Steve Jessop Aug 8 '14 at 9:29
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In India, Do they provide an accommodation? is spoken thousands of times a day. Please confirm that it is utterly incorrect.

Why would it have to be incorrect? If Americans use accommodations for the British uncountable accommodation, why would Indian an accommodation have to be considered wrong?

Yes, indeed, an accommodation in AmE might be construed as meaning something else, but so might "do you have a rubber" when spoken by a Brit be misunderstood by an American. That doesn't make it wrong.

I would think that when speaking to an Indian who say they will provide an accommodation, context should be clear enough to ensure they mean a place to stay, and not a political entendre.

It is, I think, a misconception that since Indian English originated from British English, it still follows, or should follow, British English. American English originated from British English as well.

Just be aware of the audience you speak to or write for, but that is always the case.

There are plenty of potential misunderstandings when you speak to a speaker of AmE, BrE or InE, but that doesn't make the wording you chose wrong English, although it may be a poor choice of English in the situation.

  • Yes, that's true. I agree. But you won't believe, do they provide an accommodation (a flat, a room) is so so common here. – Maulik V Apr 4 '14 at 5:16
  • @MaulikV yes, I certainly believe you, my point is that it's not wrong. It's just a particularity of InE, like BrE and AmE have the distinction between accommodation and accommodations. – oerkelens Apr 4 '14 at 6:53

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