I was wondering if the indefinite article "a" is necessary in the following sentences, whereas the noun "sweat" in an uncountable word.

  1. I broke out in a cold sweat from pain.
  1. I broke out in a sweat from embarrassment.

Please kindly clarify the reason why this article is used along with the noun "sweat".

1 Answer 1


"Sweat" is both a noun (for the liquid excretion) and a verb (to sweat). However, this is an additional noun usage - "a sweat" is an idiomatic way to describe a bout of sweating, just like you would say someone has a fever. Both your examples are this noun usage.

"Sweat" as a liquid is like all other liquids - uncountable in itself, but you can count smaller quantities of it. Droplets of sweat are usually referred to as "beads of sweat". So, just as you could say "a glass of water", you could say "a bead of sweat".

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