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He can only maintain an erection while laying on his back.

He can only maintain erection while laying on his back.

I am not sure if both are okay in all situation or whether the second one is the most general and most appropriate here. The thing that confuse me is the lack of an article and the fact it's singular.

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    You shouldn't be confused by the lack of an article in this context, because idiomatically that article should normally be present. Oct 23 at 12:46
  • See this NGram usage chart for problems maintaining an erection, where the article-less form doesn't show on the chart at all (it just says Ngrams not found: problems maintaining erection). Oct 23 at 12:50
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    Source of quote please. Where did you read or hear this sentence.
    – James K
    Oct 23 at 13:00
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    According to the definition of erection in the dictionary, this word used in the sexual biology sense is always countable (marked with [C]), so the article is necessary when the noun is singular. Oct 23 at 13:33
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    This question has created an image in my mind's eye that I am trying hard to get rid of. Oct 23 at 15:01
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I think you are confusing two usages here.

He can only maintain an erection while laying on his back.

This is fine except that it should be lying, not laying as MichaelHarvey kindly pointed out in a comment, and it is singular because he can only have one erection at a time

He can only maintain erection while laying on his back.

Perhaps you were thinking of

He can only maintain erections while laying on his back.

This is now fine, it describes something habitual and repeated, he has problems standing up but lying down everything works OK.

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    Er, don't people lie on their backs? Oct 23 at 14:47
  • @MichaelHarvey good grief. How did I miss that?
    – mdewey
    Oct 23 at 15:05
  • Just change it. Though there may be a bit of prevarication to disambiguate as well. :)
    – Lambie
    Oct 23 at 16:24

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