be worth something can be used as--

The Taj Mahal is worth a visit.
The idea is worth our attention.

In this kind of sentences either an article or a determiner is used after worth . But in the sentence.

To reign is worth ambition.

No article or determiner is used. Is it correct?
I think it must be

To reign is worth an ambition.

  • I don't really understand either form of the sentence. If I had to pick something to go before ambition I would make it our. (The act of reigning is something worthy of us spending our ambition on.) But almost nobody ever gets the choice of reigning—so it's not a phrase that would normally ever be used . . . Commented Apr 9, 2019 at 4:48
  • I found it in wren and martins book Commented Apr 9, 2019 at 5:05
  • It doesn't really matter where you found it, if the meaning isn't clear. ;) Commented Apr 9, 2019 at 6:12

1 Answer 1


Ambition is generally a non-count noun, so the determiner "a" would normally be incorrect.

That said, the meaning of "To reign is worth ambition" is very unclear. It looks very dated and, indeed, Wren and Martin is a book from the 1930s. Many of its examples are old fashioned, or express attitudes typical of British Imperial Army officers, which may seem odd today.

It probably means "It is okay to be ambitious, because then you could become a leader". That is odd to modern attitudes.

  • To reign is infinitive and it acts as the subject of the sentence. Commented Apr 9, 2019 at 6:21
  • I know. It is just the attitude expressed in the sentence is so odd to modern people, that the meaning is hard to grasp.
    – James K
    Commented Apr 9, 2019 at 6:31
  • @jk ambition is countable noun also Commented Apr 9, 2019 at 6:35

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