Why are we omitting the indefinite article in

"The baby has soft skin"?

We are not saying

"The baby has a soft skin".

In this case we're talking about a particular baby, not babies in general. I'd really like to know the rule(s) because this is a major problem for many language groups learning English.

  • 4
    A deceptively simple answer is because skin in that sentence is uncountable. What's really difficult is to explain why it's uncountable in a useful way for learners, IMHO. Commented Jul 5, 2015 at 9:46
  • 2
    +1 to Damkerng T. Because we can say "When polar bears and grizzly bears mate, they produce offspring with a light brown fur." or "The fox has a reddish fur." If a native speaker were to say "This baby has a soft skin" people might conclude that he posed a danger to the baby. Articles are important :)
    – TimR
    Commented Jul 5, 2015 at 11:59

1 Answer 1


In this case, you don't say "the baby has a soft skin" in the same way you don't say "this is a bad music", you just say "this is bad music". This is because "skin" and "music" are "uncount nouns". Uncount nouns are nouns that you can't place a number in front of like "5 music" (you would say "5 songs"). The rule is that you never place "a" in front of uncount nouns, but you can put "the" in front of them sometimes, like in "I like the music." You can only put "the" if you are talking about a certain example of something. If music is playing and you like it, then you could say "I like the music", but when you say "I like music" you are just saying that you like music in general.

I used "music" as the example because skin can be an uncount noun and a count noun. In "the baby has soft skin" it is an uncount noun, but it is a count noun in "he bought ten crocodile skins" because it is plural.

This site gives pretty much all the rules regarding articles.

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .