I've gone through the tutorial about "A/an and the" from English Grammar Today in which I guess I understand the rules.

Regarding singular countable nouns, the tutorial states

We only use a/an with singular countable nouns

We can use the with singular and plural countable nouns

The tutorial does explicitly claims something like

there has to be an article before singular countable nouns.

However, in practice, the statement seems to appear to be a rule. Is my understanding correct?

This is the precise version, which is waiting to be reviewed.

"Usually, there has to be a determiner before singular countable nouns that are not proper nouns"

  • 2
    There doesn't have to only be an article. There could be a possessive pronoun, for instance, or an adjective. But there does have to be something in front of them. Jun 22, 2020 at 15:29

1 Answer 1


We do only use "a" before singular countable nouns. The word "a" means "one" and so it implies the noun is countable and singular.

a cat

There could be other types of determiner:

my cat
which cat?
that cat

and so on.

If you are willing to accept proper nouns as "singular and countable", they often can be used without any determiner.


or words like "winter", "school"

You can argue that these are not "singular countable nouns".

  • You answer makes my statement complete. Thank you. To eliminate the ambiguity, is it correct to say "there has to be a determiner before singular countable nouns that are not proper nouns" ?
    – RobertH
    Jun 23, 2020 at 3:45
  • What would you say about "go to school" is school "uncountable"? But yes in general singular uncountable nouns do need at determiner, and if undetermined, then you use the article "a".
    – James K
    Jun 23, 2020 at 6:03
  • @JamesK, is there any rule that we have always to use an article beforea word that is singular, countable, and common noun. I have a question with a word, paracetamol. We do not use any article before paracetamol which is a singular, countable, and common noun. Why ? Oct 24, 2023 at 6:48
  • Because "paracetamol" is not countable - or rather it has both countable and non-countable senses. "A paracetamol" means "a pill containing paracetamol" but as a substance it is non-count
    – James K
    Oct 24, 2023 at 6:55

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