• I have to undergo surgery on Sunday.

  • I have to undergo a surgery on Sunday.

Is using a before surgery wrong? I looked up examples on the internet, and though I found some results where a was used — "She couldn't undergo a surgery due to monetary reasons" — they were few and few between. Moreover, Grammarly also says using a before surgery is wrong/unnecessary.

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    It doesn't directly answer the question, but "I have to undergo a surgical procedure on Sunday" would work. Aug 17 at 19:14

2 Answers 2


In British English, 'surgery', meaning 'the treatment of injuries or diseases in people or animals by cutting open the body and removing or repairing the damaged part' is a non-count (uncountable) noun. You do not place either 'a' or 'the' before the word, and also it is not used in plural form ('surgeries') with this meaning. A single procedure is generally called an 'operation'

I had surgery on my knee following an accident

In older people, many hip operations take place because the joints may have been severely changed through osteoarthritis and may need to be replaced

In American and some other variants of English, 'surgery' can be used to mean the same thing uncountably, but the word may also be used countably (to mean a surgical operation or procedure), and in that case can be preceded with 'a' or 'the' and also be used plurally.

a doctor who has performed many surgeries

Get the arms you've always wanted with an arm surgery

In late December 2018, Mr. Houp was hospitalized at the VA Pittsburgh Hospital Center for a condition in his lower left leg and underwent a leg surgery in January 2019

Some further confusion may arise because in countries using British English, 'surgery' is very often used as a countable noun to mean 'a location, room or building where a doctor (or dentist) sees patients and gives advice or treatment'.

Dr Jackson has her surgery at 226 Oaktree Road

In American English these places are usually called a doctor's or dentist's 'office'.

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    I think you're right, but I expect US usage is leaking over (as always). AuE would recognise both usages. 2 questions: How would you say the US example in BrE? '... lots of surgery?' Can you give a US example with 'a surgery'? I'm not sure (eg) 'I went to the hospital for a leg surgery' parses.
    – mcalex
    Aug 18 at 5:02
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    @Laurel - no, it was all my own work, apart from the example usages . I thought it was neater that way; I didn't realise those block things are exclusively for quotes. I thought it was Ok for visually separating the UK/non-UK sections. Altered now. Aug 18 at 9:33

In British English, using "a" would be wrong in that context. For no particular logical reason, "surgery" (in that sense) is treated as uncountable, and so you shouldn't use "a".

Cambridge dictionary has:

[ Uncountable ] the treatment of injuries or diseases in people or animals by cutting open the body and removing or repairing the damaged part:

On the other hand "operation" is countable: "I have to undergo an operation".

But since it is illogical, you can probably find native speakers making the same mistake. (You can argue that it's not a mistake, just a variant. But it is not the usual variant)

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    There's a UK/US difference here. Aug 17 at 8:59

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