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Why is

People can get message from their friends through the internet

Grammatically incorrect? What rule is it that forces the above sentence to be "get messages" and how can I make sure I remember this pattern in the future?

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  • If you mean that more than one message may come then you need the plural "messages". If you want to talk about one message at a time then you need "a message". (Sorry I can't point you to a "rule" you can remember.) Commented Apr 29, 2022 at 13:59

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The correct way to use the singular would be

People can get a message from their friends through the internet

That's because messages are countable and every singular countable noun requires a determiner, which can be an article (a/an/the) or some other word that specifies that countable object.

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  • It doesn't matter that it's some general concept of messages?
    – minseong
    Commented Apr 29, 2022 at 14:37
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    @theonlygusti: some words are used as both uncountable and countable: communication, for example, can be used in a general sense, and is then uncountable (example from Wiktionary: "The node had established communication with the network, but had as yet sent no data"); and also to refer to a single event of communication, when it is countable ("I have received a communication from the lawyers"). But not all nouns can be used in both these ways, Message happens to be countable only, and cannot be used to mean some general concept.
    – Colin Fine
    Commented Apr 29, 2022 at 15:31
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The rule is that you always have to say "get messages" or "get a message" (the same in this context), never "get message". English speakers do not usually like a countable thing without an article.

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  • What's an example of an unusual case where it's fine to use a countable noun without an article?
    – minseong
    Commented Apr 29, 2022 at 14:59
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    Oh I just didn't want to promise that there were no exceptions because this is a language of exceptions. I'm not sure there are any but let me think about it.
    – L. B.
    Commented Apr 29, 2022 at 15:06
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    I think you can only "use a countable noun without an article" if that noun is also capable of being used as a non-count noun. So I always have [a] coffee after dinner is fine with or without the article, but I always have a cigarette after dinner is invalid without the article, because cigarette can only be countable. Commented Apr 29, 2022 at 15:42

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