What is the difference when you use a/an before comparative/superlative adjectives and when you do not use it? Does it depend on the context or is there a grammatical rule? which one is correct?

For example:

1) That usage of verb gives the sentence a more formal look.

2) That usage of verb gives the sentence more formal look.


To figure out whether you need an article, look at the following noun:

  • If you're talking about more hair, you don't need an article because hair doesn't need one.

  • If you're talking about a more formal look, you do need an article because the noun look needs one.

Adjectives aren't relevant in this context.


You must always use a/an there; in fact you're missing one earlier on in the sentence. The correct way to write the sentence would be:

That usage of a verb gives the sentence a better formal look.

  • 2
    +1 But: "Of the two sentences, #1 gives the better formal look." :) – StoneyB on hiatus May 15 '13 at 21:47
  • + another 1, but a better formal look sounds clunky to me anyway. I'd say a more formal look (or more likely, appearance). Arguably the original was intended to mean both this usage and some alternative are equally "formal", but this one is actually better for some unspecified and unconnected reason. But in that case I'd find some other way of putting it anyway. – FumbleFingers Reinstate Monica May 15 '13 at 22:42

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