Why isn’t there any article before this countable noun?

7

There was chaise longue at the end of the dressing room, and Clea crept to it now and lay down, pulling her knees up to her chin. (Clea & Zeus Divorce by Emily Prager,p.54)

I don’t find out why there isn’t any article before a countable noun, chaise longue. I suspect a definite or indefinite article could be not required when there should be one referent and it’s not worth to establish particular identity or reference between speaker and addressee. But I bet it’s only a groundless imagination. Why isn’t there any article?
(Can this between speaker and addressee be used without articles? I guess it could be for it's a matched nouns.)

Listenever

Posted 2014-05-01T09:12:50.347

Reputation: 25 811

Answers

11

It looks plain wrong to me.

There may be exceptions to this rule, but:

  • Countable nouns (like "chaise longue", "book", and "Yeti") need an article (or another determiner).
  • Uncountable nouns (like "archaeology", "information", and "terror") don't need one, and often shouldn't have one.

Right:

There was a chaise longue at the end of the dressing room.

There was a book at the end of the dressing room.

There was a Yeti at the end of the dressing room.

There was archaeology at the end of the dressing room.

Wrong:

There was chaise longue at the end of the dressing room.

There was book at the end of the dressing room.

There was Yeti at the end of the dressing room.

There was an information at the end of the dressing room.

Right, but only because some words, like "cake", can be used countably or uncountably:

There was cake at the end of the dressing room.

There was a cake at the end of the dressing room.

Tim Pederick

Posted 2014-05-01T09:12:50.347

Reputation: 6 267

1To clarify the "cake" issue: "There was cake" means that some amount of cake was present or available (such as to eat). There could be whole, partial, or sliced cake(s). "There was a cake" means someone baked a complete cake and placed it somewhere (at least initially, whole). "There were cakes" would mean that there were at least two more or less whole cakes present. – Phil Perry – 2014-05-01T14:01:51.457

2I wouldn't include "cake" in the initial list; if you wanted, a third section of just "cake" working both ways could be good, but in the first list I'd use an always-uncountable noun. Start with the basics, get to weird cases like "cake" later. – KRyan – 2014-05-01T16:25:02.023

You wouldn't say, "There was archaeology at the end of the dressing room", not because of any issue involving articles, but because it is not clear what it would mean. Archaeology is a field of study: it doesn't make much sense to talk about it having a location. You can say, "Bob studied archaeology" or "Archaeology helps us to understand ancient history". I suppose you could talk about archaeology being in a place in the sense of using the word as shorthand for a department of a school or a museum. Like, "Where is archaeology?" "It's in the east wing, second floor." – Jay – 2014-09-22T18:54:24.453

In the book "The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde", runs a sentence - "The will was holograph, for Mr. Utterson, though he took charge of it now...". This should also count as an error right? – nitishch – 2014-09-26T16:11:43.763

@hatter: Probably not, no. In this case, Stevenson (the author) is almost certainly using "holograph", an old (legal?) term for a handwritten document, as an adjective. You can say "this is a holograph", but (I believe) you can also say "this is a holograph document", in which case "this document is holograph" is also correct. – Tim Pederick – 2014-09-29T12:06:14.637

@Jay: It may (or may not!) be an informal use, but "archaeology" can be used to mean "archaeological artefacts" or "stuff of archaeological significance". Example: "That one's archaeology, but these are just natural features." – Tim Pederick – 2014-09-29T12:10:16.863

@TimPederick Yes, you might point to a particularly interesting ancient artifact and say, "Now THAT is archaeology." But you wouldn't say "There was archaeology at the end of the room." Well, maybe you could come up with some context where, properly introduced, such a statement would make sense. But as an isolated sentence it does not, so it is not a good example for a grammar discussion. – Jay – 2014-09-29T13:12:58.907

@Jay: I get the impression that you're saying "THAT is archaeology" in the same sense one might say "THAT is a car"? That is, for emphasis, saying that it is a particularly fine example of a car/an archaeological find? Then no: I have it on the authority of an (admittedly non-practising) archaeologist that you could say "there is archaeology there" without any particular meaning of "fine examples". Of course "there was archaeology under the building site" is more likely than "at the end of the room", but that's not a grammar issue. – Tim Pederick – 2014-09-29T14:55:55.407

@TimPederick This is probably turning into a dull argument, so I don't want to drag it on much further. Yes, in my example I intended to indicate emphasis, but I wasn't limiting to that idea. That said, I have never heard someone say "There was archaeology under the building." I think most people would say, "There was an archaeological dig under the building". (An archaeologist would probably just say, "There was a dig ...", etc.) The sentence that you give is possible. Almost any combination of words might make sense in the right context. But it's not the sort of thing people usually say. – Jay – 2014-10-01T13:36:23.217