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Hi,

According to the "Longman Student Grammar" abstract nouns (such as education, kindness) can have countable and uncountable.

(e.g.)
1. What's your highest level of education? => uncountable
Although she was a girl she wanted an education => countable

In the countable case, can "an education" be any education such as primary school, middle school, or University?

According to some other contents on the indefinite article "a/an", the "a(n)" specifies types or particular instances of nouns.

(e.g)
1) a cruel kindness => what type of kindess? cruel => The "cruel" modifies the uncountable "kindness"
2) I have not seen you for a long time => How long haven't you seen him for? for a long time => "long" specifies or modifies the uncountable "time"
3) There was a poor attendence at the meeting => How big attendence did the meeting have?
"a poor attendence" => the "poor" modifies or specifies the uncountable "attendence"

In above cases, do you regard those uncountable nouns as countable nouns?

It's still a bit confusing me because of following examples.

a) Because our charity event had such high attendance, we have reached our donation goals.(One of TOEIC questions)
=> I thought it has to be "a high attendance" as in (3), it's "a poor attendance" not "poor attendance"

b) There is great support for their case.
(An article on "Liverpool" at BBC Newspaper)
=> Why it isn't "a great support" even though "support" is uncountable if above explanation is correct, isn't that have to be "a great support"?

Thanks in advance.
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Comments  
The short answer, VC, is that they don't necessarily become countable-- it is often the speaker's option/conception that makes the choice.

1. (you have no '2')
In the countable case, can "an education" be any education such as primary school, middle school, or University?

-- not likely; more likely it is e.g. 'an adequate education'.
How big attendence did the meeting have?

-- the question would also take the article: 'how big an attendance...?' And yes, if they have an indefinite article, they are singular countable nouns.

And in your a) and b), as I said above, in many cases the speaker has the options:

high attendance or a high attendance
poor attendance or a poor attendance
great support or a great support

Some are better than others (in my estimation) but all are possible here.
Thanks for the reply, Mr. M.

I've understood that it is possible to use either the indefinite article or zero article in such a case.
But I am still wondering whether you decide to have an indefinite article, does it make much difference in meaning? Or Is it like "Liverpool is leading by 1:0", "Liverpool are attacking again". Here "Liverpool" can be both plural uncountable noun and singular countable noun, but apart from that, there is not much difference in meaning.

(e.g.)
Liverpool is leading by 1:0 <=> Liverpool are leading by 1:0
Liverpool are attacking again <=> Liverpool is attacking again.

Thank you.
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Yes, I think it's like-- the example I use-- 'the Yankees are winning / New York is winning'. No substantial difference in content.
Hello VictoryCountry

The question you raised is nice. Why do people sometimes add 'a' to and sometimes do not? What is the rule for the choice? These questions have long remained mysterious to me and still now they are so.

By the way, as for "an education", my E-J dictionary suggests it is used to mean a person's knowledge and cultural/social attitudes that he/she acquires through some proper education system.

paco
In most cases, Paco-as in many other structural/lexical choices we have looked at here it is the speaker's concept at the moment.

'There was poor attendence at the meeting' -- the speaker is thinking of a visual mass of empty seats, the lack of enthusiasm, the disinterest people had: uncountable qualities.

'There was a poor attendence at the meeting' -- the speaker is thinking of the few attendees, the number of empty seats, the comparison with the full house last week: countable images.

The reality-- though I probably need the help of a psychologist here-- is that many or all of these images and ideas are passing through the speaker's mind as he instantaneously formulates his utterance and almost unconsciously chooses his words. What balance is required to choose the article or discard it seems to me to be impossible to pinpoint.
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Mr P, thank you for the quick response.
What balance is required to choose the article or discard it seems to me to be impossible to pinpoint.

So I should give up trying to catch it.

paco
It depends on how busy your schedule is.
Mr Mic

Yes you may be right. But you know, probably I have only a decade or less to kick my bucket.

paco
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