For example, when used as a predicate nominative, anathema doesn't require an article: That belief is anathema. However other words do require an article: He became a knight.

I wonder if it has something to do with singularity of the predicate nominative: I will be king.

The only research I have done is to look up definitions for predicate, nominative, copulatory verbs, as well as googling to try to find reasons why anathema could not require and article. This was difficult to find as anathema could be counted, depending on the definition in use.

  • 2
    'He became king' and 'He became a king' are both idiomatic. The former uses the null, not the zero, article. However, in your examples, 'anathema' is obviously non-count {ODO}. Feb 4, 2018 at 23:16
  • Please include the research you’ve done. Questions that can be answered using commonly-available references are off-topic. Feb 4, 2018 at 23:17
  • I apologise, new to codified rules on English grammar. I understood that non-count predicate nominative nouns don't require articles, but to me it wasn't so obvious that it was non-count. My only research has been to look up and understand all terms: anathema (the word that started all this), predicate, nominative, as well as copulatory verbs. I will edit my question to reflect this ASAP. Thank you for your input. Feb 6, 2018 at 0:01

1 Answer 1


In "That belief is anathema," the word "anathema" needs no article because, as Cambridge states, it can be used as a noncount noun.

In "He became king," "king" is what Huddleston & Pullum (2002) call a "bare role NP." When used predicatively, nouns describing specific roles and titles can often be used without a determiner, as in "He was made president of the club."

  • The dictionary you cited says it's [ C usually singular, U ], which is what other dictionaries say. So, the noun can be either count or non-count. I don't think the question is about what OP says it is about. It's just about the lexical nature of the noun that it can be either count or non-count.
    – JK2
    May 17, 2023 at 2:36
  • @JK2 That's why I said "it can be used as a noncount noun."
    – alphabet
    May 17, 2023 at 3:28

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

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