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It it accurate to say this?

He feared a U.S. invasion.

Or should I say,

He feared U.S. invasion.

I'm trying to figure out when to place "a" in front of the U.S. when U.S. comes with a noun like invasion/attack/sanctions. What is the difference?

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    I've edited your question and asked for it to be reopened. FYI, you can edit questions too. A general answer can be found here. Mar 21, 2013 at 7:48

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I prefer the second option on socio-political grounds:

"He feared U.S. invasion"

Because, as opposed to an attack, an invasion is a drawn out process, and the indefinite article excessively encapsulates it. I would compare this to saying,

I fear an afterschool detention is in store for me

or

I fear punishment is in store for me

While my punishment could be a detention, the idea of punishment doesn't imply a finite action like a one-hour detention.

You don't lose any meaning between "a U.S. invasion" and "U.S. invasion" but, contextually, I imagine that a person who fears invasion does not only fear the finite action that occurs when borders are breached but the attendant occupation of the territory, which comprises a drawn-out and nearly undefinable period of time--perhaps, even a permanent condition owing to the leftover cultural and religious residue from the expelled invaders.

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    It is surely possible to imagine somebody who would welcome U.S. invasion (since even foreign military rule would be better than the present situation) but fear the actual invasion (since there is likely to be shooting). Mar 21, 2013 at 12:55
  • @Tim: It is. And it's part of the utilitarian narrative we Americans hear routinely from our congress.
    – tylerharms
    Mar 21, 2013 at 15:13
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I'm trying to figure out when to place "a" in front of the U.S. when U.S. comes with a noun like invasion/attack/sanctions. What is the difference?

Why the U.S. specifically? Do I smell a political position there? :)

In any case,

What makes the U.S. (as a nation's name) a bit special is that it's hard to make into a differentiated adjective (vs. Europe/European or Canada/Canadian, for example).

Here's my knee-jerk for each of your mentioned words (sanctions, attack, invasion):

They feared U.S. sanctions. (Can't be done otherwise since 'sanctions' is plural anyway').

They feared a U.S. attack.

They feared U.S. invasion.

I don't think there's a general rule for these type of expressions; you'll probably have to learn them by idiom.

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    an invasion by the US or the former USSR vs an invasion by Canada
    – mplungjan
    Mar 21, 2013 at 9:06

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