Cambridge Dictionary offers the sentence below as an example of give rise to:

International support has given rise to a new optimism in the company.

Although it's shown in Cambridge Dictionary and OALD that "optimism" is uncountable, article "a" is used in the sentence. Why is it?

1 Answer 1


Optimism is not countable - you cannot have "optimisms". The word describes an overall outlook. Unlike the feeling of love (which can be a countable noun for the things/people you love as well as an uncountable noun for the feeling), when there are multiple sources of optimism we tend to say something like "I have many reasons to be optimistic".

Although as a general rule uncountable nouns do not have an article, there are exceptions. Many nouns which are normally uncountable are treated as countable in some cases.

For example:

  • Can you feel the love?
  • The optimism they felt was warranted
  • He has a love of food.

All of these refer to an instance of that feeling, as in your example which states "a new optimism" (a feeling that has just emerged). You cannot count the feeling but you can count the instances.

It isn't only abstract noncountable nouns that can be exceptions. Substances like coffee and water are uncountable, yet it is normal to order "a coffee", or even "two coffees". Like the instances of love, joy, optimism etc, you can count cups of coffee, and this is inferred when you treat them as countable.

  • 6
    Just one disagreement: "a new optimism" doesn't have to mean there was a previous optimism. It may be used to contrast with a previous pessimism (or even indifference). Apr 13, 2020 at 19:03

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