Zero article before a noun



Please kindly help me understand the rules under which zero articles are used before the nouns appearing to be countable in these examples:

As will be explained in [para] 2.3, several different types of company can be registered. The contents of the application for registration depend on the type of company being registered.

A claim for misrepresentation may sometimes be a claim for breach of contract.

I had a chance to read this response (Can a singular noun follows zero-article?), which is very helpful and interesting. I wish to confirm whether my understanding is correct that 'type of company' is a compound phrase and 'a' before 'company' is redundant (my understanding is based on that response). Does this apply to 'breach of [a] contract'? Or does 'contract' have an uncountable meaning there (as the branch of law)?

Further, ‘misrepresentation’ and ‘breach’ seem to have the same meaning when used countably or uncountably (based on dictionaries). If this is so, in what contexts are the words like these used countably and uncountably? How can I resolve this if I wish to use them in a particular context?


Posted 2018-08-30T18:52:40.490

Reputation: 51



Consider the following:

The monthly fee depends on class of service.

Time-in-transit depends on mode of transport.

Failure to deliver goods in a timely manner shall be deemed breach of contract.

Availability depends on color and size.

We are not referring here to an individual instance of a class of service but to the concept of "Class of Service", to the rubric, the category. The same is true here with "Mode of Transport", "Breach of Contract", and with "color" and "size" and "Failure" and "Availability". In that we are not referring to particular instances, this is a form of generalization.

Price is always negotiable.


Posted 2018-08-30T18:52:40.490

Reputation: 116 610

Many thanks for this. If you do have some resources/links to this rule, I would be grateful if you could share it with me. I just want to reconcile this rule with another rule under which 'the' can be used with a singular countable noun to talk about general features or characteristics of a class of things or people rather than specific one. – Rashid – 2018-08-30T20:43:08.103

@Rashid: They are not mutually exclusive rules. It's not the one or the other. The tiger is an endangered species. But compare the type of noun : tiger versus class, mode, failure, availability, color, size. – Tᴚoɯɐuo – 2018-08-30T20:51:27.507

To be honest I cannot understand the difference between: 'Failure to comply with an enforcement notice can result in imprisonment for up to 6 months.' and 'A failure to understand the economic environment leaves managers without a clear view of what is happening in their markets.' – Rashid – 2018-08-30T21:03:56.547

1The first is speaking about the abstraction "Failure to comply", let's call it the abstract class of said behavior. The second is speaking about an instance of that class and generalizing from that instance. A tiger is a powerful cat with four legs and a long tail and orange coloration. Or Children, who knows what a tiger is? – Tᴚoɯɐuo – 2018-08-30T21:06:50.193

To sum up your earlier comment when you compared 'tiger' with 'class', 'mode, and so on. If we want to generalise a thing which is not a token (something tangible), but rather an abstract thing, we use zero article. But when we are referring to a thing in possession (such as a tiger) in general terms as a class of such type of thing, then we use 'the'. Are they right assumptions? – Rashid – 2018-08-30T21:22:09.667

The difficulty is that there are multiple forms of generalization, and that these ways are not the only ways. The price of things is always negotiable. Prices are always negotiable. Price is always negotiable. *Who can tell us what a tiger is? The tiger is an endangered species.* We can generalize with a prototypical instance. We can generalize with a class. We can generalize from a generic plural. Tigers are large and powerful cats. – Tᴚoɯɐuo – 2018-08-30T21:31:42.003

Another case here is that supermarkets offer a bag to pack things you buy, so I want to decline that offer. Is it correct to say: I declined that "offer of bag"? – dan – 2018-08-31T23:11:56.517

1@dan: You're referring to a particular instance and a particular bag, so your case is not a form of generalization. Nor is bag an abstract noun like "failure" or "transport". bag is a tangible item. Idiomatic would be *I declined the offer of a bag.* Idiomatic generalization: I always say no to bags. or I always say no to a bag. Finally mode of transport and offer of bag [sic] are not analogues semantically. mode is an attribute of transport or a category of transport, whereas offer is not an attribute or category of bag, rather the inverse. – Tᴚoɯɐuo – 2018-09-01T11:47:22.503