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A Japanese friend sent this:

IDOBATAKAIGI - いどばたかいぎ - 井戸端会議 - Have you ever heard of "IDOBATAKAIGI"? Initially, it meant a short chat among house wives in a daily life. And now it became a pointless talking.

I replied with these corrections:

  • "in a daily life" → "in daily life"
  • "became a pointless" → "became pointless"

But I'm not sure why. I want to explain the reason we don't use "a" in that context, but we do for "it meant a short chat".

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    Your choices of article/no article is spot on. 'Chat' is a usually a count noun {see the ODO definitions} (you can have two, three ...) and takes the indefinite article (or a couple ...). With 'short', the count usage is mandatory. But 'life' in 'in daily life ...' and 'talking' (except in 'talking-to') are mass nouns, not taking any article. But I would rewrite your sentence thus: Initially, it meant a short chat among housewives during the course of their everyday lives. But now it has come to mean meaningless prattle. [if mass] Oct 12, 2014 at 18:33
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    ... Often, nouns in English play both count and non-count [mass] roles. Thus with 'talk': This is the third talk on safety I've had to give this year. // Talk is cheap. Oct 12, 2014 at 18:35
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    Oh that makes sense! Thanks Edwin! Why don't you make that the answer? Oct 13, 2014 at 0:30
  • I'm pretty sure that a very similar question has been asked before, but suspect it would take an awfully long time to track it down. Article usage in English is extremely complex; Collins Cobuild have a 100+ page book on the topic. Oct 13, 2014 at 15:03
  • Related: When can an article be omitted? (on ELL) Oct 14, 2014 at 22:37

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"A daily life" means someone's specific daily life, that someone being established earlier in context or previous conversation.

"Housewives" is not specific - you are meaning any housewife, not one you brought up earlier. So "a" should not be used.

It's the same concept with "a pointless talking." You mean any pointless talking, not a specific event of pointless talking.


Additionally - "Became" sounds a bit strange to me in the last sentence, because it's not usually used that way to describe words changing meaning. Last sentence would sound a tad better if you said "and now it means 'pointless talking.'" - or even "and now it has become to mean 'pointless talking.'"

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