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I was just checking an advanced grammar and learned that the following is possible:

It is not that big a deal

1) The book says I cannot skip the article. But how come in "ordinary" version there is no article, it is because it is common and became a phrase?

No big deal

What about this sentence:

It was too stupid question

2) Is this correct or I must use "too stupid a question". What if I used "That":

That was too stupid question.

3) Do I still need to use the article?

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2 Answers 2

up vote 1 down vote accepted

In general, when you use a countable noun in the singular, you must put some indication of quantity in front of it. When you use it in the plural, you may give a quantity or not. By "countable noun", I mean a noun that refers to something that can be counted, like dogs or bricks, as opposed to things like liquids that perhaps can be measured but not counted. By "indication of quantity" I mean a number, like "one" or "six"; an article, namely "a" or "the"; or some other word that indicates a quantity in some general sense, like "many" or "some".

In this case, "not a big deal" uses an article to express the quantity, namely, one. "No big deal" uses the word "no" to express the quantity, namely, zero.

So in your "stupid question" example (I'm referring to the example you give, not your question!), yes, you need an article or some other "quantity" word. Normally you would say, "That was too stupid a question" or "That was a stupid question".

Note that you don't necessarily need a quantity when you use the plural. For example in the singular you cannot say, "There was dog in the room", you must say, "There was a dog in the room" or "There was one dog in the room". But in the plural you can say, "There were dogs in the room." You CAN give a quantity, like "There were two dogs in the room" or "There were many dogs in the room", but you don't have to. (I have no idea why this is so. It's just the rule.)

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I think the simple answer to this is that you do need to use the article, but that one definition of no is "not a", meaning that using no on its own can imply the article anyway, as in:

He's no genius. (He's not a genius)
It's no joke. (It's not a joke)
No one may leave. (Not a/any one/person may leave)

So, you can say "It's no big deal", as you may also say "It was no stupid question", but because no definitions of too include an article, you have to explicitly use the article with too.

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