Suppose I've written some code and added a feature which now allows our application to support some Apple device (I've made it all up just to provide some context). Now I'm writing a concise report for what I've done. How would I write the phrase?

  1. Added basic Apple support ...
  2. Added a basic Apple support ...
  3. Added the basic Apple support ...

The question apeared because everyone I know (non-native speakers), including myself, like the first variant. But no one can tell me why and it appears that Google like the 3rd one.

Which is correct and why?


It all started with the following sentence: "Added [a/the/] basic user interface support for the tasks feature". I was inclined to use no articles at all but then I became doubtful, went for the rules, found nothing to support my gut feeling and used "the".

  • 3
    To me, it seems that option 1 works best, especially if the sentence ends with "support". It would be great to see the full sentence. A google search for "added * support" computer brings up instances similar to your option 1. It seems felicitous to use no article in this construction in such technical reports. Commented Dec 3, 2015 at 12:42
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    I would use no article in your example sentence, but let's wait for native speaker's opinions. Commented Dec 3, 2015 at 14:54
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    @modulusshift, the phrase was used in a commit description not in a report but it is irrelevant since I want to know for myself and not because I'd lke to please someone with "perfect grammar". As to Google: I meant search — "Add the basic support" gives more results and on the first page there are at least 2 books with such a phrase. Search without an article and with "a" give less results and no books on the first page.
    – ixSci
    Commented Dec 4, 2015 at 4:43
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    If you want to know more about article usage, I'd recommend Quirk et al.'s book "A Comprehensive Grammar of the English Language". I've never read a more thorough description of article usage. Commented Dec 4, 2015 at 7:36
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    @CopperKettle, thank you I'll definitely take a look
    – ixSci
    Commented Dec 4, 2015 at 8:40

1 Answer 1


It seems that the key thing to consider is the issue of countability.

When a noun is countable and singular, in most cases it should take an article: either a or the. The problem with English is that a noun can be countable in one sense and uncountable in some other sense. Here's a dictionary entry for 'support' that lists its countable and uncountable senses.

The majority of the listed senses for support are uncountable, and only two are countable:

[countable] a thing that holds something and prevents it from falling.

[countable] something you wear to hold an injured or weak part of your body firmly in position

These countable senses clearly do not fit your purpose, and it's only a countable singular support that can take a:

John installed a support in the coal mine to make it safer.

John wears a knee support to help him walk.

The two examples of support above are countable; your support is uncountable, because its meaning leans towards "function", not some palpable, material thing. This sentence would sound strange:

This year, I've added Apple supports to ten different applications. (a bit strange)

You would say instead:

This year, I've added Apple support to ten different applications.

Compare with a countable-sense support:

This year, I've installed wooden supports in ten different coal mines.

When a noun is uncountable, it either takes the or takes no article. In order to take the, it should be definite. It's hard for me to expand your sentence to make it "definite enough", but I'll try:

We also added the basic Apple support that the customer requested last month. (the noun support is definite because we used the "that-clause" to make it definite)

But this sentence seems somewhat strange to me. It's more usual to use support in this context as a indefinite non-count noun:

We also added basic Apple support, as requested by the customer last month.

Examples of usage from Google Books:

HTML 4.01 1999 This version added support for style sheets to give Web designers greater control over page layout. (source)

A variant of 95b, called OSR 2.1, added rudimentary USB support. (source)

Besides expanded support and improved performance of NDS, now called NDS eDirectory, Novell added pure IP support. (source)

Furthermore, Google Ngram finds no instances of "added a support for", but does find instances of "added support for".

(a caveat: I'm not a native speaker of English, and articles are cryptic to me sometimes)

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