1. They blamed the accident on shoddy construction.

  2. They blamed the accident on a shoddy construction.


Are both of these two sentences correct?

I think the usage of an article could be possible in front of an uncountable noun, while the abstract uncountable noun is more specified by an adjective.

But, I've never seen this method used before words like research, evidence, information etc. So I'm confused with my shabby knowledge on the word "construction."

How about the usage of an article in front of "shoddy construction"?

  • 4
    The cognitive dissonance your are experiencing is due to the fact that construction is both a mass noun and a count noun. "A construction" is a thing which has been constructed, similar to "a construct". In your 2nd sentence, the accident was caused by some thing which was constructed (shoddily), but the accident did not occur to that construction: it occurred to some other thing. Now, I can imagine possible scenarios where that 2nd formulation is valid and descriptive, but given the linguistic evidence (shoddy) the first sentence is overwhelmingly more likely to be true.
    – Dan Bron
    May 7, 2015 at 2:44
  • The use of the article signifies reference to a specific case, while the zero-article version refers to the generic entity. They're not the same. HTH. Also @DanBron I think the speaker meant the second, instead.
    – Kris
    Feb 12, 2016 at 9:15

2 Answers 2


Here's a parallel to "shoddy construction":

'beautiful explanation' versus 'a beautiful explanation'

The noun 'explanation' may be considered uncountable, but it's always possible to refer to a certain explanation, say of a plan, poem or mystery.

Both with or without an indefinite article, your sentence makes sense and grammatically correct, I believe.

  • Explanation, especially when referring to a particular explanation, is a countable noun.
    – WBT
    Feb 12, 2016 at 15:12

If the noun is a mass noun (uncountable) the article is not appropriate.

Example sentence 1 ("They blamed the accident on shoddy construction") sounds fine.
Example sentence 2 ("They blamed the accident on a shoddy construction") does not, especially if trying to consider "construction" as a count noun.
"They blamed the accident on a shoddy construction job" sounds much better.

Sankarane's example doesn't seem to work because "explanation" is countable as used there.

Consider this correct sentence: "The contractor delivered white sand."
and this incorrect one: "The contractor delivered a white sand."
and this correct one: "They enjoyed a day at a white sand beach."

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