I'm confused about this particular sentence, and other ones using ache,I know that 'I have a headache' is correct and works, but it sounds a little weird to me if someone says 'I have a stomachache/a toothache/a backache/an earache'. I feel that with the exception of headache, these should all be uncountable, does anyone agree with me or am I barking up the wrong tree?

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    Nothing to back it up, so I'm not posting this as an answer, but all your examples with articles sound perfectly fine to me. – oerkelens May 13 '15 at 14:45
  • Why would a headache be any different from these other aches? – ebwb May 13 '15 at 14:45
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    Barking. Wrong. Tree. All use the indefinite article. – Mitch May 13 '15 at 14:49
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    Aches and pains and diseases are all over the map. The flu, the grippe, the heaves, the galloping never-get-overs, but a/an headache/earache, a pain in the neck/butt/lower colon, but also pneumonia, asthma, heart/kidney/lung disease (but a disease of the heart/kidney/lung). Don't expect it to make sense; English article use is almost entirely idiomatic. You have to learn the idioms. Sorry about that. That's to make up for not having inflectional paradigms like Russian or Finnish. – John Lawler May 13 '15 at 14:57
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    @Martha: You might find that Victorian ladies had the headache because it was not just a complaint but rather a complete behavioural suite with firmly established causes, permissions and regimens. So in a way there was only the one headache to go round. – David Pugh May 13 '15 at 17:23

While it is common for one to see the words, "headache", "stomachache" etc., spelled as one word, they are actually closed compound words.

Take out the noun adjunct (e.g., head, stomach) and say the sentence again without the indefinite article:

"I have ache."

So ache is in fact a count noun, with a noun adjunct modifier attached. Hence the indefinite article.

Hope this helps?

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