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Why we used the indifinte article "a" in this sentence ?? "Fear is a universal weakness"

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    Commented Aug 28, 2021 at 4:16

2 Answers 2

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The level of abstraction is only one consideration. Another is countability.

In this case, you have identified fear as one kind of weaknesses. Depending on the context, other qualities could also be considered weaknesses: pity, mental instability, lack of empathy, etc.

Contrast this with a noun like happiness. There are many things that can cause you to experience happiness, just as there are many degrees of happiness. (I am somewhat happy, I am very happy, this is the happiest I have ever been.) But for most people, there is only one kind of happiness.

Another contributor indicates that when an abstract noun is modified by an adjective (such as universal) the noun becomes countable because the adjective distinguishes that noun from other instances of the noun. But this point is incomplete. The following would also be correct:

Fear is a weakness.
Pity is a weakness.
Lack of empathy is a weakness.

In each case, it is the statement itself that makes weakness countable. Fear is distinct from pity and all the other kinds of weakness.

This does not mean that weakness is always countable. All of these sentences are permissible:

  1. I feel weakness in my arm.
  2. I feel a weakness in my arm.
  3. I feel a slight weakness in my arm.

2 and 3 assumes that we can experience weakness in more than one way. 1 assumes that there is one kind of weakness and we experience it in a similar way in all of our body parts. The speaker's decision to use an article or not reveals his attitude toward weakness.

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  • You are right, but "weakness" that you show us is limited to one of several definitions of a word " weakness". According to dictionary. The "weakness" is countable and the meaning of the word is a weak point in a system, somebody’s character, etc.
    – bak1936
    Commented Aug 28, 2021 at 6:31
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"Fear is a universal weakness"

An adjective "universal" modifies an abstract noun "weakness". That is, when an uncountable noun is modified by an adjective. An article "a" is used in front of an adjective.

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