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Why don't we use the indefinite article in "what hassle"?

I think hassle is used as noun here which means "Irritating or inconvenience". What exactly is the problem with "what a hassle" (as hassle is third-person singular)?

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Where did you see "what hassle"? In fact, the normal expression of exasperation at a bothersome task is "what a hassle" ... –  Robusto Jul 2 '11 at 19:10
    
I noticed in a magazine,I am also keen to know why do we use 'a' here while we use 'an' for historian? –  Quixotic Jul 2 '11 at 19:15
    
This is interesting,however :/ –  Quixotic Jul 2 '11 at 19:17
    
And for historian,I am a bit of confused too. –  Quixotic Jul 2 '11 at 19:19
    
Whatever magazine you read it in, "what hassle" is definitely not standard usage. On your historian search, try removing the "what" portion for improved clarity -- j.mp/ngram-a-historian-an-historian -- and then try the same with history: j.mp/ngram-a-history-an-history –  Matthew Frederick Jul 2 '11 at 20:21

1 Answer 1

up vote 3 down vote accepted

As others have mentioned, the common phrase to express annoyance is "what a hassle", similar to "what a nuisance", "what a pain", and so on.

But saying "What hassle" is not entirely ungrammatical, because hassle can be used as an uncountable noun (to mean "hassle as a general concept", rather than a specific instance of it happening) which then cannot take a/an. This would be parallel to such expressions as "What fun!", "What larks" and so on - but as the latter example illustrates, this comes across somewhat stilted and literary.

(As for a versus an, that is well covered elsewhere on this site.)

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Effectively, OP's question as asked is a bit meaningless. If he'd asked "Why do we use..." it would have made more sense. Whatever - you've covered the whole issue perfectly well, I think. –  FumbleFingers Jul 2 '11 at 22:38

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