Zero article before "advice", "fish and chips", "lunch"


Please explain next example:

My neighbour is a photographer; let's ask him for (!) advice about colour films.

We had (!) fish and (!) chips for (!) lunch. That doesn't sound a very interesting lunch.

We'd better go by (!) taxi—if we can get (a) taxi at such (an) hour as 2 a.m.

Why do we not use articles where I put an "(!)"? What rules apply in these cases?

Max Usanin

Posted 2014-06-02T09:23:14.987

Reputation: 153

In that context, you wouldn't say an advice, although you could say some advice. Also, if you were happy with the tips your neighbor gave you, you could say, "Thanks for the advice." Wow, it gets complicated when you think about it! – J.R. – 2014-06-02T19:25:03.200



Advice is uncountable and thus it won't take an article. If you still want one, you will have to quantify it --a piece of advice.

a fish and chips is correct but Fish and chips is a general meal thus doesn't require article. Oxforddictionaries describes it as a mass noun. And lastly, for lunch is a phrase to describe what you have for lunch.

Added: As said by Nico in the comment, Collins Dictionary talks about occasional use of advices (plural)

advices - formal notification of facts, esp when communicated from a distance

Maulik V

Posted 2014-06-02T09:23:14.987

Reputation: 66 188


Why do they use advices here?

– Lucian Sava – 2014-06-02T10:01:57.080

When advice is on the paper or a kind of formal notice/invoice about delivery or transaction, I guess it's then though informally countable. As in Multiple paper remittance advices may be generated for a single check payment. – Maulik V – 2014-06-02T10:13:08.000

@Nico Thanks. This is worth including in the answer. – Maulik V – 2014-06-02T10:54:24.613

1A fish and chips might be technically correct (if you parse it as "(a fish) and chips" not "a (fish and chips)") but it would sound very, very strange. You could say some fish and chips, note that you could also say I gave my friend some advice or I had some lunch. – None – 2014-06-02T11:13:51.740

@jwg I meant that only and I think all understood it. a chips is not possible in any way. – Maulik V – 2014-06-02T11:32:57.930

2@jwg: I could see "a fish and chips" being used as a colloquial shorthand for "a serving of fish and chips", as in "Gimme a beer and a fish and chips." Indeed, that's what I initially assumed the answer was referring to; the parsing "(a fish) and chips" did not occur to me before reading your comment. – Ilmari Karonen – 2014-06-02T13:27:45.997

@IlmariKaronen, I agree that this seems to make sense, but in my opinion it would sound very strange. It wouldn't seem to make grammatical sense. On the other hand, the other way of parsing it would be grammatical, but would be even weirder. That's why I tried to make the distinction between the two ways. – None – 2014-06-02T13:31:16.670

1@jwg "A fish and some chips" would be a more natural way of saying "(a fish) and chips"; Ilmari Karonen's interpretation makes good sense and, as a native speaker, I can imagine people saying that. (An alternative would be "a beer and a fish supper".) – David Richerby – 2014-06-02T15:46:24.190

Advice can take the definite article in some contexts; for example: The advice he gave proved very valuable, or, We heeded the advice of our doctor. – J.R. – 2014-06-02T19:26:00.950

1@J.R. All(?) uncountable nouns can take the definite article (e.g., "The courage I showed in writing this comment is negligible; I did it for the money.") – David Richerby – 2014-06-03T07:31:42.550

1@David - Excellent point. I was merely addressing the first sentence of this answer: Advice is uncountable and thus it won't take an article. – J.R. – 2014-06-03T07:37:56.217

i updated my post adding new example

We'd better go by (!) taxi—if we can get (a) taxi at such (an) hour as 2am

Please help me understand what is reason – Max Usanin – 2014-06-03T08:37:04.923

@MaxUsanin I think it takes an indefinite article as you are talking about 'any taxi'. Also, common way to express 'hour' matter is - at this hour. So... If we can get a taxi at this hour, it'll be great. – Maulik V – 2014-06-05T04:25:02.907


"Advice" is an uncountable noun and so does not call for an article.

"Fish" and "chips" are plural and so do not require articles. "I saw a dog in the yard" -- dog is singular, so an article is required. "I saw dogs in the yard" -- dogs is plural, so no article is required.

In any case, food items can often be used as uncountable nouns. "I had a hamburger for lunch." Hamburger is singular, I had one, so I use an article. "I had hamburgers for lunch." Hamburgers is plural, I had more than one, no article needed. But you can also say, "I had hamburger for lunch", using hamburger as an uncountable noun.


Posted 2014-06-02T09:23:14.987

Reputation: 51 729

"Fish" is also a singular and, in Britain, "fish and chips" usually consists of a single piece of battered fish and a portion of chips. I dispute "I had hamburger for lunch", though you could eat a curry and say "I had curry for lunch". – David Richerby – 2014-06-02T15:48:23.997

1When used as a mass noun, hamburger refers to the meat, not the sandwich. Pizza might be a better example. – choster – 2014-06-02T19:18:45.117

@DavidRicherby - What choster said. Sometimes the word hamburger can be used to refer to ground beef (at least in the U.S.).

– J.R. – 2014-06-02T19:21:26.327

@J.R. OK, I was unaware of that and it's not used that way in the UK. Would you say "I had hamburger for lunch" to mean "I ate some unspecified dish made from ground beef for lunch"? – David Richerby – 2014-06-02T20:53:44.377

1@David - Pretty much, yes, although people rarely eat unadorned ground beef by itself, so I'd expect you might be more likely to hear something like, "I had hamburger and rice for lunch," or, "I had hamburger casserole for lunch." – J.R. – 2014-06-02T20:56:36.657

1@David - You'd be more likely to hear "hamburger" used to refer to the meat (instead of the sandwich) in the context of cooking, as in: "The first step in this recipe is to brown a pound of hamburger." – J.R. – 2014-06-03T07:05:13.330

@DavidRicherby Yes. Sorry, I guess my statement in my answer was unclear. "Hamburger" as an uncountable noun would indeed refer to the meet and not the sandwich. Like one could say, "I had beef for dinner" or "I had lamb for dinner". I'm not sure what the rules are for when a food can be used as an uncountable noun. Any meat can be, I think. People say, "We ate corn", but never "we ate pea" or "we ate carrot". – Jay – 2014-06-03T13:21:11.200

@Jay - perhaps not, but I might say, "I added carrot to the salad." – J.R. – 2014-06-04T21:13:43.743

@J.R. Hmm, true. I think I'd be more likely to say, "I added carrots ...", but I wouldn't be put off if someone said, "I added carrot." But I would be surprised if someone said, "I added pea to the salad" or "I added bean". As I said, I'm not sure what the rule is on that. – Jay – 2014-06-05T13:12:15.607

@Jay - We are in agreement; I'd probably say "carrots," too. That said, I like to bring up these odd cases – not to be obstinate, but help emphasize how such idiosyncrasies could easily confuse the learner. – J.R. – 2014-06-05T14:24:27.960


We'd better go by (!) taxi—if we can get (a) taxi at such (an) hour as 2 a.m.

Why no article here? That's just the way the preposition works.

by (prep.) using a particular method of transportation
by car/train/bus/air etc.: Sophie's parents arrived by taxi.

If you use the verb take (or catch) instead, however, the article would be included:

We'd better take a taxi—if we can get (a) taxi at such (an) hour as 2 a.m.

So, I might say:

I'm taking a bus on Wednesday, but coming back by plane on Sunday.


I going by bus on Wednesday, but taking a plane home on Sunday.


Posted 2014-06-02T09:23:14.987

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