Is "life" a countable noun in English?



I am a learner of English. Sometimes I see an article (a and the) before the noun (life) but sometimes I also see the noun without any article. So I am confused when should I use an article before the noun and when I should not. Please check the examples and let me know are they correct?


His life is an awesome life.

I want to get a beautiful life.

I like the life he lived.


Posted 2014-08-07T07:57:40.607

Reputation: 3 999

1You know cats have nine lives? – RedSonja – 2015-01-23T14:41:12.500



"Life" can be a countable noun.

The examples you listed above are all grammatically correct, though number 2 is little unnatural.

The expression "to get a life" does not mean to somehow obtain the state of being not dead, but rather, to do something worthwhile. For example, you can tell a person who stays at home all day to "get a life", telling him to get out and do something (get a job, find a hobby, and so on).


Posted 2014-08-07T07:57:40.607

Reputation: 1 347

5Should note the correct sentence would be: "I want to have a beautiful life." – Qubei – 2014-08-07T09:15:15.257

@Qubei Even then it feels odd. I'd only describe life as beautiful if discussing life as a general subject. Describing a certain person's life as being beautiful feels a bit off. – Pharap – 2014-08-07T12:32:34.610

Do realize that in a grammar checker "lifes" will be caught up and be recommended to be changed to "lives" instead. – Unihedron – 2014-08-07T12:34:00.383

@Unihedron That's because lives is the proper plural. But I would make this point without mentioning automatic grammar checkers, which are mostly wrong and are likely to mislead learners. – snailplane – 2014-08-07T14:11:09.260

@Pharap I would rephrase it as "I want to live a beautiful life" – alldayremix – 2014-08-07T14:17:21.133

@alldayremix I'll admit it sounds less cumbersome. I still have the issue with describing a person's life as beautiful. Under what circumstances and for what reasons would someone describe a particular person's life as beautiful? How would one go about living a 'beautiful' life? – Pharap – 2014-08-07T15:00:39.253

2Get a life! Get two! – Zoe – 2014-08-07T15:17:16.497

Pharap: One can say that people who work for charities or act altruistically throughout their lives "lived beautifully".

Zoe: 1-ups FTW. – LiveMynd – 2014-08-07T21:25:22.880


In your question, you mentioned being confused about the usage of an article in conjunction with "life": "Sometimes I see an article (a and the) before the noun (life) but sometimes I also see the noun without any article"

Here's my take on it :

If you were speaking about a person's or, say, a pet's life, you should use an article before the word. In other words, if you were talking about a particular life..

Eli led an exemplary life and was a great inspiration to all those around him.
Liza lived a good life before we had to put her down.
The life of a dragonfly is short but filled with action.

...and if you were talking about life in general or the very nature of life then there's no need for an article, usually.

Life can be so hard sometimes.
If life gives you lemons, squeeze them in people's eyes.
It is not the length of life, but the depth that matters.

I know it's probably more complicated than the overly simple explanation I gave above, but I thought you'd have a better understanding with a couple of examples.


Posted 2014-08-07T07:57:40.607

Reputation: 341


+1 to @harshaKanchina, but let me add a thought:

Like many words in English, "life" has more than one definition. In this case, there is a definition that is countable and a definition that is not countable.

"Life" can mean the time between the birth and death of one individual, or the things that a person does in that time. Like, "Bob's life lasted fifty years." "Sally devoted her life to helping the poor." This definition is countable. You can say, "Ten lives were lost in the fire." "We all want lives filled with meaning."

"Life" can also mean the idea of living as opposed to non-living. "The ocean is filled with life." "All life is sacred and precious." Etc. In this sense it is not countable.


Posted 2014-08-07T07:57:40.607

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