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Why can't I say, "I have a brown hair," to describe the colour of my hair?

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  • My Czech friend always says "hairs". It's never plural.
    – JoJo
    Commented Mar 31, 2011 at 6:29
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    I have a brown hair. The rest are white.
    – Hot Licks
    Commented Apr 3, 2016 at 15:41
  • There is the murder mystery trope where the wife finds 'a' brown hair on her husband's collar and later the detective finds 'a' blonde hair on the same man's corpse. There are a few others I could mention.
    – civitas
    Commented May 17 at 19:07

2 Answers 2

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When describing the hair on one's head, the noun hair takes on a collective sense, i.e. hair is treated as uncountable. Thus, the correct way to describe your hair (presumably that on your head) color is:

I have brown hair.

However, hair is also a countable noun, e.g. "Who knows the number of hairs on their head?" Hence,

I have a brown hair

is also perfectly valid, but it would usually imply that that a particular brown hair is special—perhaps one in a billion black hairs, or something of the sort.

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  • @nicholas: I believe there is a checkbox outline to the left of the answer. Clicking this should mark it as accepted.
    – Jimi Oke
    Commented Mar 30, 2011 at 6:55
  • @Jimi Oke - the upward facing arrow? It asks me to register... Commented Mar 30, 2011 at 6:58
  • @nicholas: No, the upward facing arrow is for upvoting, which, apparently, you can't do. I am yet to ask any questions on this site, but the FAQ says there's the outline a checkbox (presumably rectangular) to the left of the answer (I'm guessing to the left of the score, i.e. votes, or below the downward-facing arrow). I can't see the box, but you should be able to see it, since you asked the question. If the box is visible to you, you should be able to click on it. Doing so will mark the question as accepted. The box would probably turn green, or you should see a green checkmark.
    – Jimi Oke
    Commented Mar 30, 2011 at 7:05
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    Yes! I've found it! Thanks - and sorry to everybody for appearing to be miserly...I'll try and use it as much as possible from now on. Commented Mar 30, 2011 at 7:19
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    "I have a brown hair" sounds rare indeed, but "I have a gray hair" is not so uncommon.
    – J.R.
    Commented May 26, 2012 at 21:08
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***Normally when you say one's hair you mean not just one but a mass, certainly thousands of hairs in one's head. That's why it should sound more appropriate to use hair as an uncountable noun without indefinite article. you can say: I have brown hair, but if you say I have a brown hair, the reader or listener is more likely to understand that you have one hair which is brown among a mass of black hairs.

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  • This is a good explanation, but without a reference, it looks just like an opinion.
    – Davo
    Commented Mar 31, 2020 at 12:32

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