I have confusion regarding use/non-use of articles before adjective + abstract noun. Eg. competent handling, prolonged tread life, enhanced durability

Providing COMPETENT HANDLING and PROLONGED TREAD LIFE, this tyre is developed to perform well in wet as well as dry roads.


Providing A COMPETENT HANDLING and A PROLONGED TREAD LIFE, this tyre is developed to perform well in wet as well as dry roads.

Please tell me the general rule in such circumstances.

  • Instinctively, I'd say that 'competent handling' definitely shouldn't have 'a' before it, while 'a' would be optional before 'prolonged tread life'. Perhaps because a tyre has one life, so it's OK to talk about 'a life', but 'a handling' doesn't make sense - it's just 'handling'. I can't fully explain why, though. – David Garner Apr 21 '15 at 15:35

I suspect that "handling" has a specific meaning in vehicle parlance, so if it is a count noun then "a handling" is fine, but not if it is just an abstract noun. The rule is that the indefinite article "a" can only be used with count nouns.

However, I think that some count nouns that are used for some quantitative description have over time become abstract nouns. One example is shelf life, which in my sentence appears as an abstract noun. I presume that originally it was a count noun, which is why you must say "have a shelf life of N days". But although many people still say "have a longer shelf life", many others now drop the "a", for example "contributed to longer shelf life" in this article.

That said, there is also another factor that we must be careful to exclude from analysis, which is that articles, definite or indefinite, are very often dropped from titles and headings especially in news reports such as Mediterranean migrants crisis: EU to hold emergency summit.

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