I was going through the Grammarly blog about indefinite articles and its usage and the writer used this to exemplify the omission of articles:

Incorrect: The creativity is a valuable quality in children.

Correct: Creativity is a valuable quality in children.

I don't understand why that rule doesn't apply to a sentence like "The creativity that man had was eccentric", because it certainly doesn't sound right to say "Creativity that man had was eccentric." Is that an exception or a completely different thing?

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  • Because it is specifically the creativity displayed by that man and not creativity as a notion or idea. That's why. – Lambie Jul 9 '18 at 14:27

The absence of the article isn't because the noun is abstract but because it is a noncount noun, though many abstract nouns are noncount nouns. We treat nouncount nouns like they're plural as far as using articles is concerned but then treat them like they're singular for verb conjugation.

Count Noun Examples:

Singular: "A smile is icing on the cake."

  • indefinite article "a"
  • singular verb conjugation "is"

Plural: "Smiles are icing on the cake."

  • no indefinite article
  • plural verb conjugation "are"

Noncount Noun Example:

Noncount: "Smiling is icing on the cake."

  • no indefinite article — like the plural example above
  • singular verb conjugation "is" — like the singular example above
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    You really did not answer the question. Without the, the word creativity refers to the notion, as opposed to the creativity shown by a specific person. – Lambie Jul 9 '18 at 14:26
  • I did answer the question quite clearly, as evidenced by the fact that the asker selected it as providing the answer. Note the green check mark. You simply failed to understand, which based your own very poor grammar and what appears to even be broken English, it's easy to see why. In fact, your second sentence lacks any coherency at all, so you fail utterly at making it known why you think I didn't answer the question but only manage to make it known that you are wrong and have no idea what you're talking about. – Billy Jul 9 '18 at 18:52
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    Poor grammar? Broken English? That is such a hoot. Shiver my timbers. You did not make the distinction between using the determiner the with forms like "the x of y": "the creativity of the students" versus its notional use "Creativity is an interesting phenomenon". That was the question. – Lambie Jul 9 '18 at 19:10

The definite article is not used before abstract nouns except when they refer to a particular situation.


  • "Creativity is a valuable quality in children" BUT "The creativity of primitive man has been underestimated"

  • "Death is inevitable" BUT "The death of the prime minister left the whole country in turmoil."

Simple as that.

for a complete chapter on the subject, refer to Proficiency in Grammar.

  • The x of y is different here though. Here, the determiner is specific versus notional. – Lambie Jul 9 '18 at 14:24
  • @Lambie I don't think I understand what you mean. – Centaurus Jul 9 '18 at 15:52
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    @Centaurus - Join the club. Neither do I. In fact, based on this and Lambie's other comments here, I'm pretty sure even Lambie doesn't know what Lambie means. – Billy Jul 9 '18 at 18:55
  • It is not just a specific situation. There are two cases where a determiner is used: They are used in specific situations, sure. And they are always used in forms like: The creativity of the students. The X of Y. The Wealth of Nations. [the x of y]. The wealth on display in cities across Europe. [specific]. Your answer is generally correct though. I agree with it. Of course, in my broken English. [caveat: joke]. – Lambie Jul 9 '18 at 19:14

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