I have a problem where I cannot decide on whether to use the a/an determiner or not in the following sentence.

Do you have [a] healthy contact with your environment?

If I remove the adjective healthy from the sentence, to me it is a no-brainer and I would not use the determiner.

Do you have contact with your environment?

However adding the adjective, which is important as it separates the question from unhealthy contact and specifically asks about healthy contact, I have this conundrum.

Am I overthinking things here? If I change the noun contact to the noun mind, I would say

I have a healthy mind


Do you have a healthy mind?

It seems possible to me to choose to use the determiner or not when constructing the original sentence.

Should it be

Do you have healthy contact?

or should it be

Do you have a healthy contact?

  • The word contact is a noun in your sentence, not a verb. Feb 17 '17 at 13:16
  • 1
    @Chris Yes, contact is a verb with the given meaning, but in your sentence it is grammatically a noun, with the meaning of communication, not communicating. Try it for yourself. You can use communicate with as a synonym for contact. That doesn't work in your sentence, but communication with (i.e. a noun) does work.
    – oerkelens
    Feb 17 '17 at 13:40

In your sentence with 'healthy', the healthy implies a specific form of contact and thus takes the article. Without it, it could be any type of contact, or multiple and thus does not take the article. The article can still be used without an adjective however, which suggests a specific or exact form of the noun.

For example, we can say 'Do you have knowledge of X?', 'Do you have a good knowledge of X' and 'Do you have good knowledge of X?'. It is more uncommon to say 'Do you have a knowledge of X' although not unheard of.

Thus, you can have both forms, with different connotations. With the article it implies a specific or exact form or example of contact whilst without it means any healthy contact in general.

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