In the following sentence:

Peter hears a noise in the middle of the night.

1- Why did the author use "a" before the uncountable noun "noise"?

2- Does the indefinite article add to or change the meaning of (noise) in any way?

Thank you.

  • 1
    Why do you think that "noise" is non-count in your example?
    – BillJ
    Jul 27 '19 at 11:05
  • Because "Peter hears a noise" gives the impression that Peter hears ONLY ONE noise, not two or more noises; it feels like the author is counting noises. It sounds more natural to me to say "Peter hears noise in the middle of the night", where "noise" here simply means "any" noise.
    – Laith Leo
    Jul 29 '19 at 8:56
  • It doesn't matter how many noises he actually heard -- he could have heard two/three/four noises in the night". An example of non-count "noise" would be "Peter hears a lot of noise in the night". In your ex, "noise" is clearly a count noun.
    – BillJ
    Jul 29 '19 at 9:12
  • Got it. Thank you!
    – Laith Leo
    Jul 29 '19 at 9:13

Abstract nouns may be either countable (idea, hour) or uncountable (kindness, sadness). Sometimes abstract nouns can become class nouns (a noise is regarded as one of its class). This change is marked by the use of the article and of the plural number: much noise, a noise of a hammer, different noises. Moreover, an abstract noun is used with the indefinite article when it denotes a certain kind of a quality, feeling, state, etc. "Peter hears a noise, which can't be heard by others", "Peter has a cleverness quite of his own", "Peter has an eagerness, which could hardly be seen without taking a delight in feeling that it makes him happy."

  • 1
    The point is that "noise" is a count noun in the OP's example.
    – BillJ
    Jul 27 '19 at 11:06
  • 1
    In can be either one of its class (countable) or of a certain kind of uncountable noise: "There is so much noise in Peter's head that he hears in the middle of the night. It's a noise of a preternatural kind". I.e. "He hears a noise (of a preternatural kind) in the middle of the night".
    – Eugene
    Jul 27 '19 at 11:43
  • It's clearly a count noun in the OP's example, not just because it is determined by the indefinite article "a", but because it can be counted, as in "Peter hears two noises in the night". Only a very few non-count nouns can combine with "a", and then only under restricted conditions.
    – BillJ
    Jul 27 '19 at 11:51
  • 1
    I would rather agree with you that a noise may be a countable noun in the OP's example. But it looks a little discomfiting for me to see the Present Indefinite here which can also convey the idea of Peter's hearing a noise every night. If so, this noise might however be a non-countable noun denoting a certain kind of noise. Whatever, I just tried to elucidate the issue to the OP by some paradigms.
    – Eugene
    Jul 27 '19 at 21:51
  • Would you be so kind to name those few non-count nouns you have mentioned?
    – Eugene
    Jul 27 '19 at 21:56

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