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I know you put 'a', 'an', or 'the' for countable nouns.

But I sometimes see some phrases without the articles when they are supposed to be included.

For example,

a state of residual charge of battery of a microphone at a ..

I think that the battery is a countable noun so it should be like "a state of residual charge of a battery of a .."

But readability is much better without 'a' in front of the battery.

So my question is, do you omit articles when there are too many "of" in one sentence?

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    Could you provide the whole sentence? I think it should read a state of residual charge of the battery in a microphone at a... because it's rather clumsy otherwise. Technical sentences are always a bit tricky. I don't think that an article (a/the) can be omitted before battery though. – Snowy Oz Jan 7 '15 at 5:15
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    The label of the battery of the phone of the company reads 'Sony'! – Maulik V Jan 7 '15 at 5:20
  • A lot of these kinds of sentences can be simplified by changing some of the phrases into adjectives, adverbs, or possessives, or even leaving off phrases that don't really add value. For example, replace that sentence fragment with, "residual microphone battery charge at a..." – fixer1234 Feb 24 '17 at 19:20
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Assuming the following phrase is what is intended,...

a state of residual charge of battery of a microphone at a ..

it can be broken into chunks:

[a state of][residual charge of battery][of a microphone][at a...]

First of all, we have all kinds of phrases in which the noun after of does not have an article:

How about a slice of cake? a piece of pie? a bowl of oatmeal? a loaf of bread? a cup of coffee? a lot of money? a ton of bricks? a herd of African cattle? a school of tuna fish? a mountain of homework? a smidgen of truth? a collection of stamps? a peck of pickled peppers? a group of children? A bottle of water? A glass of milk?

Some of the above nouns that follow of are singular count nouns, some are plural count nouns, some are mass nouns. The point is that we do not have to use an article in this kind of construction.

Getting back to your sentence:

[a state of][residual charge of battery][of a microphone][at a..

This is quite awkward; however it works like this one:

[a pile of][leftover change of clothes][of a teenager][at a..

I realise "a pile of leftover change of clothes" is awkward, but then so is the corresponding phrase of the original. The important thing is that

Both change of clothes and charge of battery are a unit.

Like 'bottle of water', 'glass of milk', etc. As we have seen, an article does not have to come after of in this kind of construction.

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  • Thank you!! But is there any rule to distinguish chunks in a sentence? I mean.. how do you divide a sentence by chunks? – Zoie Jan 12 '15 at 5:48
  • Well, of course, "chunks" is a non technical term. I just did that to show individual units of meaning. I guess that is the main way we divide sentences. It is usually by identifying the subject phrase and the predicate phrase. Then maybe subdividing those into smaller phrases, depending on what type of phrases there are in the sentence. Noun phrase, prepositional phrase, and other "chunks". – user6951 Jan 12 '15 at 7:33
  • Actually, in ESL we do use the term "number chunking". – Cascabel Mar 27 '16 at 20:28
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a state of residual charge of [?] battery of a microphone at a ..

battery is countable, singular and not part of a compound noun, so you do need an article. In this context, the article should probably be the if there is always one battery per microphone

a state of residual charge of the battery of a microphone at a ..

If each microphone may contain multiple batteries, the indefinite article is appropriate.

a state of residual charge of a battery of a microphone at a ..

For multiple batteries per microphone, assuming that the behaviour of each battery is the same, you could also say

a state of residual charge of the batteries of a microphone at a ..

If you are concerned about the number of of's, you could make a compound noun microphone battery, in which case a is the appropriate choice even when there can be more than one battery per microphone, for example:

a state of residual charge of a microphone battery at a ..

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You're right - 'battery' is countable. So it would need to be:

a state of residual charge of a battery of a microphone

You're also right that it doesn't read very well with too many 'of' clauses, even if it's technically correct.

The right way to make it more readable is to rephrase it like this:

A state of residual charge in the microphone's battery

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In certain way you are right: "battery" is a countable noun, but only because it is correct to say "a battery", and besides the better readability there are more powerful reasons why it doesn't have an article.

If you have already read grammar rules to use "a", "an" and "the", notice that they are used, in some way, to highlight the singularity of a noun, despite it is countable or not.

In your example:

a state of residual charge of battery of a microphone at a ...

The noun "battery", in the sentence context, has no singularity, so there is no no need for an article, otherwise it would mean something else:

a state of residual charge of a battery of a microphone at a ...

It would mean that you are talking about a type of battery, or some battery that the reader/listener doesn't known and which is about to read/listen.

a state of residual charge of the battery of a microphone at a ...

The reader/listener knows what is the battery you are talking about by conversation or perception.

In conclusion I'd say If you don't need it to express the singularity of a noun, don't use articles.

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