5

I read that when you classify or define people and things you use a/an:

Don't use your plate as an ashtray.

But then I found a news article which included the following sentence:

Indian teenager allegedly raped twice after cops failed to follow her after using her as 'bait'.

Shouldn't the correct sentence be "using her as a bait?"

My question is as follows:

  1. Which is grammatically correct? Using her as bait or using her as a bait?

  2. If the former is correct then why is the indefinite article not used after as? Isn't it defining her as a bait?

  3. If both are grammatically correct then what is the difference in meaning or usage?

Any help would be greatly appreciated.

Thank you.

  • An should be used before Indian, too. – user140086 Oct 14 '15 at 13:19
  • But that's symptomatic of a newspaper headline, although that might indicate that the article has been omitted from bait for the same reason (which is not the case). – Andrew Leach Oct 14 '15 at 13:35
  • @AndrewLeach It doesn't look that concise for a headline. – user140086 Oct 14 '15 at 13:46
  • Perhaps it doesn't; but it is a headline. – Andrew Leach Oct 14 '15 at 13:48
  • @AndrewLeach Apparently, the OP's "I found a news article which included the following sentence" is a bit misleading.Then, it can explain why "a" was not used before bait, too. – user140086 Oct 14 '15 at 13:55
9

The absence of articles at all in the sentence indicates that it's a newspaper headline, as such a practice is a common way of saving space. However, not every noun which is missing an article should actually have one.

Bait is a mass noun so it's uncountable and cannot usually take an article, in the same way as furniture doesn't.

Indian teenager used as furniture
*Indian teenager used as a furniture

As with all such nouns, different types can be enumerated and in that case, an article may be appropriate.

Wensleydale is a cheese beloved of plasticine Yorkshiremen and their dogs.

Note that the use of as is immaterial here; it's the noun itself and its properties as a mass/ non-count noun which determines whether an article is needed.

The Indian teenager should indeed have an article, because teenager is a count noun rather than a mass noun. But this has been omitted in the headline.

  • In the same dictionary, bait is used as a countable noun. [count noun]: ‘fishing with live baits’. Was it intentional to use BrE definition? – user140086 Oct 14 '15 at 13:52
  • It is possible for non-count nouns to become countable when you are differentiating between variants: types of bait, cheese, or maybe even furniture. But furnitures would be far more unusual than types of furniture. – Andrew Leach Oct 14 '15 at 13:55
  • 3
    @Rathony I can't agree with you there I'm afraid. ...using her as bait would seem far more natural. – WS2 Oct 14 '15 at 14:25
  • 1
    Your answer at “Seems like an overkill” vs. “seems like overkill” (closed as 'too basic') seems somewhat similar. – Edwin Ashworth Oct 14 '15 at 15:32
  • 1
    Surely, the mass noun is the only one appropriate in this context - the police decided to use her as (a kind of) bait. It is tautologous to say the police used her as a human bait (because we know already that she ('her') is human). – Dan Oct 15 '15 at 0:24

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.