While reading the following sentence, I was wondering why the term calorific value doesn't take an article. I have been taught that a singular noun always takes an article unless it is part of an idiomatic construction. Is there any other rule that I am missing?

A good fuel should possess high calorific value because calorific value determines the efficiency of the fuel.

  • Mass/non-count nouns do not require determiners, but I wouldn’t call calorific value a non-count noun as such. Was this written by a native speaker? It strikes me as being slightly unidiomatic, partly because of the missing determiners (though I’ll admit I can’t quite figure out why I only find it slightly inelegant here and not ungrammatical), but also because possess seems an oddly anthropomorphic verb to use for this. It would be much more natural to me to just say, “A good fuel should have a high calorific value”. Jan 1, 2019 at 9:43
  • Does length take an article? Jan 1, 2019 at 9:51
  • It was indeed written by a non-native speaker. The "value" in the example sentence is very much a count noun. Also, My question related to (non)use of an article before such nouns in general. Consider also the following sentence: "Heat value or calorific value determines the energy content of a fuel". TIA.
    – Arun
    Jan 1, 2019 at 11:02
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    Is it "calorific value" or caloric value? Jan 1, 2019 at 11:11
  • 1
    This is fairly common among "The New Englishes". The zero article is used in association with a non-specific instance. If a good fuel was replaced by some particular fuel, it would be more likely to get an article. Using a general category (good fuel) makes the property (calorific value) intrinsic to the category. So although it is measurable for a particular fuel, it is not measurable for the category. Hence a more conceptual take on what "high calorific value" means is warranted. Zero Article - see comment in first paragraph.
    – Phil Sweet
    Jan 1, 2019 at 16:11


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