I don't understand why the articles were missing in the following writing in a book:

"It was hard to recognize this pile of tissue as human. Anatomy lab, at the end, becomes less a violation of the sacred and more something that interferes with happy hour.

Three locations where I feel like article is incorrectly missing

  1. "as human" - why not "as a human"
  2. "Anatomy lab" - without article sounds the best but I want to know what justifies the absence of an article
  3. "happy hour" why not "a happy hour"? And what justifies it aside from sounding better bc I thought you needed an article before most nouns
  • 4
    "Human" is an adjective here, not a noun. The other two issues take a little more time to explain, so I'll defer to others. Nov 28, 2021 at 16:21
  • Both Anatomy lab and happy hour are effectively names. Happy hour is an idiom (at least in Britain - I assume this is what is meant here) referring to a custom of bars to lower their prices early in the evening to get people in.
    – Colin Fine
    Nov 28, 2021 at 16:38
  • 1
    What @MarcInManhattan said. interpret the first sentence as It was hard to recognize this pile of tissue as human tissue, with the predictably-repeated second instance of "tissue" being discarded according to the principle of "conversational deletion". Nov 28, 2021 at 17:47

1 Answer 1


The zero article is used for proper names. No article is used for adjectives. These two rules are all you need to understand the examples given.

It was hard to recognize this pile of tissue as human.

If we look up "human" in the dictionary, we can see an entry for the word as a noun and as an adjective. If we used an article here, "a human", that would tell us that we are using the noun version of the word. Because we are not using an article, that tells us we are using the adjective form of the word.

Compare to the following sentence, and you'll see the same structure:

It was hard to see the man as ugly.

Your next question:

Anatomy lab...

Here, there is no adjective form of the phrase "Anatomy lab". Thus, per the rules above, if there's no adjective it must be a proper noun, otherwise known as a "name". What is the meaning of this as a name, instead of a simple "adjective + noun"? It refers to a school subject. Compare to the following sentences:

Math becomes less an exercise in frustration and more a pleasant pastime.
Gym becomes less a torture pit and more a refreshing activity.
Social Studies becomes less a time to talk about the world, and more like nap time.

When talking about a school subject in this way, as a name, it refers to the entire experience of taking that class, but not any specific day or moment. It becomes more general.

And your final question:

that interferes with happy hour.

This extends the previous answer. Once more, "happy hour" in the dictionary is only a noun, never an adjective, so the only answer can be that we are using it as a proper noun, just like with school subjects above. And the usage is just like school subjects, too, making this a wonderful parallel. "Happy hour", with no article, refers to the entire concept of the time in a bar where prices are reduced, not just a specific moment on a specific day.

I hope this helps!

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