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  #1 (permalink)  
Unread Oct 30th, 2010, 01:36 pm
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Default articles with such and rather

When such is followed by a singular countable noun/noun phrase with a singular countable noun, it is followed by "a/an": such an idea, such a nice girl. When it is followed by a plural noun or uncountable noun, no article is used: such awful weather, such mistakes.
I though that rather is used in the same way as such. But I have come across these examples:
- He was rather a handsome boy. (a singular countable noun)
- It was rather a good wine. (uncountable noun)
and I am confused now because in both sentences there are articles.

So, what is the correct use of rather?
Thank you.
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  #2 (permalink)  
Unread Oct 31st, 2010, 06:10 am
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Default Re: articles with such and rather

Your original idea is correct. Where you are going wrong is in thinking of wine as an uncountable noun. In this sentences it isn't - it's countable.

Rather than saying that nouns are C or UNC, it's more accurate to say that they can be used countably or uncountably. Whether we see something as countable or uncountable depends on our view of the world - do we consider it to be a mass or an individual object. This is often completely idiosyncratic, even within a language - for example English sees rice as a mass, but oats as individual grains - and between languages is often quite different : Italian sees oats as uncountable, like rice - avena.

But even within the language, worldview can change. We normally think of the musical instrument a piano as C - I bought a new piano yesterday. But what if you were writing a book for kids about a family of termites ?
Mummy termite to baby termite : You're hungry? come into the sitting room and have some piano.
Seen with a termite's worldview, piano is a foodstuff, and therefore logically becomes uncountable.

Back to your query... With nouns like wine, cheese etc, there are two ways of looking at them. You can see them as a mass - so if I say I like wine/cheese, I mean all wine/cheese. Or you can see them as individual types of wine/cheese - Bordeaux is a wine / Gorgonzola is a cheese.

So in fact, these words are regularly used both countably and uncountably. And in your example, it's this countable meaning of "a type of" that is being used :

Bordeaux is rather a nice wine. / Gorgonzola is such a nice cheese.

The speaker is expressing the concept Bordeaux is rather a nice type of wine. / Gorgonzola is such a nice type of cheese.


If you choose to see it as mass (ie all Bordeaux/Gorgonzola) then you use the UNC construction :

Bordeaux is rather nice wine. / Gorgonzola is such nice cheese.

As always, grammar gives us the possibility to make meaning distinctions, but leaves it up to us which ones we choose to use.

I have a sneaking feeling that I've said all this before, but can't find the thread. So apologies if I'm repeating myself. It was quicker to write it out again than search back through everything.
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  #3 (permalink)  
Unread Nov 1st, 2010, 12:29 pm
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Default Re: articles with such and rather

Thank you, Susan, for the explanations. You are as always helpful.

Speaking about countable and uncountable nouns, I would like you to explain the use of fruit and fish then. Dictionaries say that these nouns are both countable and uncountable.

(Macmillan)
fruit - [countable/uncountable] a type of food that grows on trees or plants. It tastes sweet and contains seeds or a stone. Apples and oranges are fruit. Ripe fruit is ready to eat.

fish - [countable] an animal that lives in water and swims. It breathes by using its gills and moves by using its tail and fins. Saltwater fish live in the sea and freshwater fish live in rivers and lakes
Little silver fish swam past.
Did you catch any fish?
Kenny keeps tropical fish.

Thank you.

Last edited by Tanialoves : Nov 1st, 2010 at 03:26 pm.
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  #4 (permalink)  
Unread Nov 2nd, 2010, 04:14 am
Sue
 
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Default Re: articles with such and rather

Yes - these words have both countable and countable forms. Look at the following :

Fruit/Fish is good for you. The speakers sees the fruit/fish as a foodstuff, a mass (all fruit) and therefore singular and uncountable.

Citrus fruit / Oily fish are good for you. This time the speaker has individual types of fruit/fish in mind (oranges, lemons, grapefruit / mackerel, tuna, salmon) and therefore chooses to use the word countably.

As I said before, it's a choice and will depend how you see the object.

In the case of these two words though, the situation is slightly complicated by the fact that they also have regular (though more rarely used) plurals - fruits and fishes.

So - in one article from Wikipedia, I found all four possibilities :

Fish ... is an important food source (Uncountable, singular)
An example of a fish that has become endangered is...(Countable, singular)
Fish are abundant in most bodies of water. (Countable, irregular plural)
In some fishes, capillary blood flows in the opposite direction to the water. (Countable, regular plural)

... and you could do the same for fruit :

Fruit is an important source of Vitamin C. (Uncountable, singular)
An example of a fruit which is rarely grown nowadays is... (Countable, singular)
These fruit are in season in June and July...(Countable, irregular plural)
Citrus fruits are grown widely in the south of Italy.(Countable, regular plural)
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  #5 (permalink)  
Unread Nov 2nd, 2010, 02:29 pm
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Default Re: articles with such and rather

Susan, thank you.
The thing is that the same singular and plural forms are a little bit misleading
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  #6 (permalink)  
Unread Nov 3rd, 2010, 02:04 am
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Default Re: articles with such and rather

There are a few more where that happens, particularly with herd animals - deer, sheep, buffalo, zebra, antilope..... Sometimes with an alternative plural (buffaloes, zebras), sometimes not (deer, sheep). It's not a "rule" however, as eg cow/cows, horse/horses are quite "regular".
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