English Language & Usage Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for linguists, etymologists, and serious English language enthusiasts. It's 100% free, no registration required.

Sign up
Here's how it works:
  1. Anybody can ask a question
  2. Anybody can answer
  3. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top

For example in this sentence, do we need an article before comedy?

Improv is essentially [a] comedy.

share|improve this question

Comedy can be used as a countable or uncountable noun. In the example sentence, we are probably using it as an uncountable noun, in which case the article should be omitted.

share|improve this answer

It depends on how you're describing Improv.

For example I would expect no article in this sentence:

Whose Line Is It Anyway? is essentially comedy with points.

Whereas I would in this one:

Shakespeare's A midsummer night's dream is a comedy.

As Jasper Loy point out, the distinction comes between countable and uncountable use.

In my first example comedy is not countable because it is used throughout the show, like you might use paint.

In the second example, there is only one play, so there is only one comedy.

share|improve this answer

'a comedy' would describe a specific show:

Friends is a comedy.

In terms of improv, I'd say:

Improv is essentially a style of comedy.

Because you can improvise without it being comedic.

share|improve this answer
'Improv is essentially a style of comedy' and 'Improv is essentially comedy' would be equivalent here. 'Essential' doesn't affect the way in which 'comedy' can be used. – ijw Feb 1 '11 at 13:24
'Improv is essentially comedy' implies that all improv is comedy, which is incorrect. This may be altered with more context, but as a standalone, it's incorrect. – user3444 Feb 1 '11 at 14:06

We do not need an article since comedy is being used as an uncountable noun here. Another example of this usage is:

He dreams of having a career in stand-up comedy.

An example of its usage as a countable noun is:

Friends was a highly successful TV comedy.

The use of the adverb essentially may cause confusion. You could say:

Improv is comedy.

Improv is essentially comedy.

share|improve this answer

Your Answer


By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.