I've noticed that the word 'charge' is marked in the Macmillan Dictionary as both countable and uncountable in the same meaning:

charge [COUNTABLE/UNCOUNTABLE] an amount of money that you have to pay, especially when you visit a place or when someone does something for you

I was wondering what that's supposed to mean and what sort of implications does it have? Should I use the indefinite article 'a' in front of it or not?

Also, I had a question about the word 'payment.' Many dictionaries say that when it is used in the meaning of a sum of money paid, it is countable. But I've seen it used in the same meaning as uncountable. So is there any difference, for instance, between 'an additional payment is required' and 'additional payment is required?' And if yes, what is it?

Many thanks for your help! Look forward to hearing from you!

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    The charge of the hostel was given to him (uncountable). He was tried on various charges ranging from perjury to treason(used countably). As far as "payment" or "payments" are concerned, this link(oxfordlearnersdictionaries.com/definition/english/payment) can help you.
    – user206150
    Commented Nov 29, 2017 at 18:02
  • 2
    @Harsh Sharma Those are inappropriate examples, as different senses are involved (charge = responsibility to manage and charge = accusations of crime). Commented Nov 29, 2017 at 22:36

1 Answer 1


The indefinite article may in some circumstances be used with non-count usages.

A paralysing horror gripped Anne when she saw the beasts.

The director spoke at the meeting today with an enormous enthusiasm.

He spoke with a feeling I never thought him capable of.

She received a good education in the States.

Countness in a usage (as CGEL wisely say) can only be determined by whether a numeral may be inserted.

*Two paralysing horrors gripped Anne when she saw the beasts.

*The director spoke at the meeting today with five enormous enthusiasms.

*He spoke with two feelings I never thought him capable of.

*She received two good educations in the States.

Examples of the non-count usage with the sense of 'charge' you point to are:

We may soon have to make a charge for this service. [ie it will no longer be free]

But the advice is free of charge.

Is there a charge?

An example of a count usage with the same sense of 'charge' is

They actually made two separate charges – one for the book and one for postage.


'Additional payment is required' may be a deleted form of 'An additional payment is required' or may be the non-count usage. 'An additional payment is required' may not be intended to be etically count – you might well be able to pay this in installments. Stylewise, I'd expect the latter version.

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    How is “Is there a charge” an example of non-count usage?
    – Jim
    Commented Nov 30, 2017 at 1:20
  • Thanks so much for your answer! It is very helpful! However, may I clarify certain points? While the sentence 'Two faint lights spread across the glade' makes perfect sense to me, the second example 'The director spoke at the meeting today with five enormous enthusiasms' doesn't. How can one possible count enthusiasm? Or is it used there in a particular meaning and I'm just not getting it? Could you clarify that, please?
    – Ko-Ko
    Commented Nov 30, 2017 at 8:21
  • 'A/Two faint light/s spread across the glade' is admittedly borderline ambiguous between non-count and count, but I'd say the count usage would be employed here vanishingly rarely. If you want an incontestable example, 'These plants really need a more intense light than they are getting at the moment if they are to grow properly'. The 'than they are getting' precludes the 'light = lamp' reading. / The asterisk indicates that the sentence is ill-formed. I'm making the point that 'The director spoke at the meeting today with five enormous enthusiasms' is unacceptable, which ... Commented Nov 30, 2017 at 9:54
  • according to better analyses (eg Huddleston & Pullum) demands that this is a non-count usage, although 'The director spoke at the meeting today with an enormous enthusiasm' is grammatical and idiomatic. The rule 'non-count usages can never accept an indefinite article' is just plain wrong. Commented Nov 30, 2017 at 9:55
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    @Janus There will always be grey areas hereabouts. I've swapped examples. The point is that the use of the indefinite article before a noun does not guarantee that this is a count usage. Commented Jan 29, 2018 at 16:00

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