5

There was a closely related previous question here but wasn't answered properly. Maybe the reason can be as simple as "because people use that way", but is there another clearer answer for that? I think the same thing goes for nouns like "time". If I know the underlying rationale, maybe I don't have to ask similar things separately and figure them out on my own whenever I use them.

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    How is it different from having a long string or long hair? Jun 12, 2023 at 2:53
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    Any dictionary will tell you that 'history' is not a strictly uncountable word. Did you consult a dictionary? Jun 12, 2023 at 9:06
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    Why can't uncountable things be long? Isn't it similar to saying "a lot of water"? Both examples indicating a high quantity of something uncountable. Another example: "long time"
    – Ivo
    Jun 12, 2023 at 13:53
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    "Long" has nothing to do with countability. You wrote a long question and I wrote a short answer, that has nothing to do with whether questions and answers are countable. Jun 12, 2023 at 15:32
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    Interesting how, when you talk about "a long history", people fixate on the "long" part and not the "a" part, which is what the question is about. Jun 12, 2023 at 21:01

3 Answers 3

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"History" can be used both as a countable noun and an uncountable noun.

When we refer to the concept of history generally, it's non-count:

I majored in History.

But when we're referring to a specific instance of history, or one particular written account of history, it can be countable:

Most murderers have histories of violence.
I have read several histories of Istanbul.
"A Brief History of Time" (title of a book by Stephen Hawking)

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    Collins COBUILD dictionary has a good set of entries showing both countable and uncountable uses: collinsdictionary.com/dictionary/english/history
    – nschneid
    Jun 11, 2023 at 19:37
  • Hi. I don't really understand your answer. Could you please explain: how are "brief" and "long" related to whether the word "history" is countable or not?
    – Stef
    Jun 12, 2023 at 16:01
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    @Stef: “brief” and “long” aren’t particularly related to the countability, they just happen to appear in these examples. A comparable example without any adjective: A history of the world in 100 objects.
    – PLL
    Jun 12, 2023 at 16:04
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    To be more explicit (it might help to add this to the answer): One meaning of "history" is "a book about history" or similar, which is countable. "A Brief History of Time" uses this meaning, and so does "I have read several histories of Istanbul". Another countable meaning is more like "reputation or record", which is the sense in "he has a history of violence." Jun 12, 2023 at 21:19
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History can refer both to all of history, i.e. everything that has ever happened, or a certain part of it. 'A' history means a part of all history, possibly a long part or a some short one.

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Think of it this way - if that history was being taught to you, being told as a story, it would take a long time, because there's a lot of it to tell.

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    This explains what "long" means, but says nothing about the countability of "history", which is the question
    – gotube
    Jun 12, 2023 at 6:11
  • You actually gave another good example of "long + uncountable noun": "long time". I think something being uncountable doesn't say anything about being able to use the word "long"
    – Ivo
    Jun 12, 2023 at 13:55
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    @gotube I believe what's more important is OP's wrong assumption that uncountable nouns can't be "long".
    – Ivo
    Jun 12, 2023 at 13:58
  • The problem is that in this case, "history" is essentially a metaphor for a narrated version of that history. Jun 13, 2023 at 2:22

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