• A plethora of problems
  • Plethora of problems

Are both ok? Because in many articles, "A" is not written.

  • 3
    Can you quote an example of an article that uses wording like "plethora of problems"? – herisson Sep 17 '18 at 23:25
  • The definite article is also used where appropriate. – Kris Sep 18 '18 at 9:54
  • @sumelic "A plethora of problems" uses wording like "plethora of problems". – Kris Sep 18 '18 at 9:55
  • 2
    @Kris: Sorry, I don't understand the point of your comment. Could you elaborate on how is it meant to be helpful? In the context of this question, it seems to me that Yu-Yeo is contrasting cases where "plethora of X" is preceded by the indefinite article a with cases where it isn't. I'm asking for examples of the second usage. "A plethora of problems" is not an example of this. – herisson Sep 18 '18 at 10:09
  • @sumelic The wording of your earlier comment needed as much of an explanation and defence as the latter comment. It could have been better. – Kris Sep 19 '18 at 10:15

No, you must use the article — and under most circumstances, the indefinite one. That’s because this is simply how such premodifying phrases used as noun quantifiers are always constructed. They must all follow this formula:

a(n) + NOUN (singular) + of + NOUN (either singular or plural)

It no more makes sense to use plethora of X without an indefinite article preceding it than it does any of these formulations:

  • a lot of
  • a glut of
  • a surfeit of
  • a surplus of
  • a deluge of
  • a flood of
  • an inundation of
  • a torrent of
  • a spate of
  • an abundance of
  • an overabundance of
  • an excess of
  • a plenitude of
  • a superfluity of
  • a nimiety of
  • a profusion of
  • a share of
  • a parcel of
  • a ration of
  • a pile of
  • a heap of
  • a load of
  • a volume of
  • a mountain of
  • a ton of
  • a sea of
  • a truckload of
  • a buttload of

Those all mean something rather like the quantifier many (or too many) if it’s a plural noun following, and something rather like the quantifier much (or too much) if it’s a mass noun following.

Please be aware that those examples are taken from a wide variety of registers. They are therefore not meant to be identical to the point of all being freely interchangeable within the same work. Some are common, others are rare.

Occasionally these can take a definite article when the sense requires it, as in

The resulting surfeit of entrants overwhelmed their sign-up desk.

Be advised that words like plethora and surfeit are “fancy” ones that belong to a far higher register than one normally employs in casual communications.

  • You left out 'shitton' – Mitch Sep 18 '18 at 13:31
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    @Mitch I believe the SI unit is a metric f`ckload. – choster Sep 18 '18 at 14:19
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    The range of determiners permissible with these is interesting to me. Some seem to be amenable to a "countable" determiner (several spates of conversation later, a dozen heaps of trash, but not *several gluts or *three profusions). And on the other hand I think "lot of" can only take the singular indefinite determiner; anything else changes the meaning (which may be why "alot" is creeping into the lexicon). – 1006a Sep 18 '18 at 18:32
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    @1006a We'll be having the whole lot of you over for drinks afterwards. – tchrist Sep 18 '18 at 20:13
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    @tchrist But that's a different meaning than We'll be having a lot of you over for drinks or even We'll be having a whole lot of you over for drinks. Think of Monty Python's glutton ordering "the lot" versus ordinary gluttons ordering "a lot" at a restaurant. With most of these, you can say "there are a plethora/surplus/heap/mountain/truckload/ of problems. . . . The plethora/surplus/heap/mountain/truckload of problems we previously mentioned..." But "There are a lot of problems. . . . The lot of problems we previously mentioned..." just sounds wrong. – 1006a Sep 18 '18 at 20:20

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