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Example with a context:

Putin and his allies blame the economic problems on what they call external factors, principally the West. Others, including former allies who worked with him, say he is out of touch and incapable of rescuing Russia from crisis.

I don't understand why there is no article a preceding crisis. This word is not a mass noun, so it really should have one. Clear things up for me a little bit, please.

3 Answers 3

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There are three articles in English.

The definite article, the.

The indefinite article, a / an.

The zero article, which is not the same thing as the lack of an article or an article that is missing.

As long as the writer is using the articles correctly, none of the articles is "grammatically more correct." And, in the context you have provided, any one of the three articles could have been used.

he is out of touch and incapable of rescuing Russia from a crisis.

Refers to any crisis.

he is out of touch and incapable of rescuing Russia from the crisis.

Refers to the specific crisis being talked about.

he is out of touch and incapable of rescuing Russia from crisis.

Refers to crisis as a concept or state. With the zero article, 'crisis' works similar to 'danger,'

he is out of touch and incapable or rescuing Russia from danger.

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Crisis is an existential state. For that reason, we do not say in this particular context that "he is out of touch and incapable of rescuing Russia from a crisis."

Just as we would not say "He saved them from a ruin." He was incapable of saving them from ruin.

We can consider such states existentially or as individual instances. We can speak of a particular crisis ("the Ebola crisis") or of a kind of crisis ("a financial crisis") or of crisis as a state-of-being ("rescue them from crisis").

They were in misery. (idiomatic)

They were in a|the misery. (not idiomatic)

The country was in confusion. (idiomatic)

The country was in a|the confusion. (not idiomatic)

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"Crisis" can refer to a specific event, or to a general state. With an article, "a" or "the", you're referring to a specific event. Without an article, you're referring to a state. In this context, there's little difference in meaning.

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