I have often heard that advice is uncountable and shouldn't be prefixed with an article. So I often force myself to say "a piece of advice". But I've seen it used with an article on a number of occasions. For example: BBC - Health: Domestic violence support contacts. (See archive.org for a copy of the original article.)

In some cases it's even pluralized as advices. For example:

Our latest advices from Santo Domingo state that the Spanish troops have almost entirely abandoned the island.

New York Times

Any idea?

  • 3
    If you're uncomfortable saying a piece of advice, you can always say some advice. – Peter Shor Jan 23 '12 at 14:13
  • The only time I have seen it used as a countable is when refering to fincancial documents, as in "the payroll department sends out pay advices on 1st and 15th of every month." – Kevin Jan 23 '12 at 14:49
  • 1
    general reference: macmillandictionary.com/dictionary/american/advice – MetaEd Jan 23 '12 at 15:03
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    I don't see this usage in your first link; are you misreading "an advice line", where "advice" is an adjective modifying "line"? Your second example is from the 19th century, which probably doesn't reflect current usage. – Monica Cellio Jan 23 '12 at 15:23
  • 1
    "A piece of advice" is a very common phrase and perfectly acceptable. But in general, I'd say just don't try to make it countable. If you are tempted to say, "I gave Sally two advices", just change it to "I gave Sally advice". If you need a qualifier, make it "some advice" or "a little advice" or "tons of advice". What would it mean to count it anyway? When would you want to say "three advices"? Perhaps what you mean is, "I gave advice on three subjects" ? – Jay Jan 23 '12 at 16:00
up vote 11 down vote accepted

Note that your BBC link does use advice as an uncountable:

The websites and helplines below can offer help and advice on how to stay safe and how to get access to emergency refuge accommodation. They can also offer advice if you are worried about the safety of someone close to you.

Not "an advice" but "advice". Note that help is also uncountable here.

The page does mention:

... an advice line ...

Here it is the line which is countable, not the advice.

Your second source does use advice as if it were countable:

Our latest advices from Santo Domingo state that the Spanish troops have almost entirely abandoned the island.

... but note that it is from a correspondent in a Spanish colony, and the text dates from 1865. It is not considered normal to use advice as a countable in this way nowadays.

If you are having trouble with uncountable words, it's often helpful to substitute an uncountable word you're more comfortable with, to see how it fits:

"The websites and helplines below can offer sugar and water ..."

It no longer makes semantic sense, but you can see how the grammar still works.

  • The BBC site contains "an advice line", which @Mohammad may have mis-parsed. – Colin Fine Jan 23 '12 at 15:22
  • @ColinFine Well spotted. Will edit the answer to mention this. – slim Jan 23 '12 at 15:24
  • @slim: does it mean that languages change and overtime some words may lose their original meanings? – user17857 Jan 23 '12 at 16:18
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    @Mohammad Read something 200 years old in your own language, then something written today, and tell me the answer. – slim Jan 23 '12 at 16:20
  • "Our latest advices" uses advice in an old-fashioned sense: in this context the "advice" is simply reporting a fact rather than recommending a course of action. – David K Aug 11 '15 at 14:42

The OED records advice as a count noun, but comments that it is ‘Now chiefly Caribbean and South Asian’, although there are citatations from a variety of sources from the fifteenth century onwards.

Our latest advices from Santo Domingo…

New York Times Article

Advice there does not mean counsel provided to a person. The word means news or reports or dispatches and is archaic in English.

(archaic, commonly in plural) Information or news given; intelligence
‘late advices from France’

And it appears innumerable times in the compendium below to mean dispatches with regard to history and diplomacy and newspapers and in the Wikipedia definition. The compendium is from something called the The Commercial and Financial Chronicle, Vol. 110 from the National News Service incorporated in 1920.

compendium of historical texts

In the past, it used to be common to use advice as a countable noun. Over time, however, the tendency has been to consider it uncountable, and currently this is by far the most common use.

As far as I know, the use of a plural form is archaic. Also, check this out. I think of it the same way I think about information.

You always say advice(mass noun). If you want to use it as a count noun, then you can say "a piece of advice," but never "an advice."

  • Heh, but how many times'd you hear, lemme give you an advice, lemme give you one advice? – Talia Ford Sep 29 '13 at 11:17
  • @TaliaFord You hear a lot of things, but that doesn't mean they are standard English. – Noah Sep 30 '13 at 4:57
  • That was but a cursory rhetorical question, adding some perspective to your apposite instruction. Though I realize that might've been the proverbial you in your response. – Talia Ford Sep 30 '13 at 6:25

advice - [the act of giving advice] counted as a noun

lets say it out - his advice always stands positive way.

advise - [recommendation, guidance] counted as a verb

lets say it out - "He is a advisory to the council"

  • The question does not ask about the difference between advice and advise, but whether advice is countable. – choster Sep 29 '13 at 14:58

Click on this evidence to accept "advice" as countable: Evidence

See the examples here, you will find "some advice". Hence, an advice is correct to use.

  • No. The Cambridge dictionary clearly marks advice with a U, which means uncountable and every examples it gives uses the word that way. – Knotell Apr 23 at 17:03
  • If it were countable it would be "Here are some advices" similar to "Here are some tips" (YES) Instead, it's always "Here is some advice" – Mari-Lou A Apr 23 at 17:15
  • But some advice is far more different from advice.... It's like a piece of advice..(countable)..and hence an advice(one advice) too – Selena Apr 24 at 14:09

protected by tchrist Feb 22 '15 at 0:32

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