Why do we use the indefinite article in the expression "have a good time"? Time is an uncountable noun, and we never say "what a beautiful weather!", but "what beautiful weather it is!"

Could anyone explain it to me?


3 Answers 3


Time is uncountable when it describes the abstract concept, but it is countable when used in contexts such as this. We can have a good time, but we can also speak of good times and bad times. A good time makes a generic reference. That is, in the words of the ‘Longman Student Grammar of Spoken and Written English, it

refers to the whole class, rather than just one or more instances of the class. In English all three articles (a/an, the, and zero) can be used for generic reference . . . A/an is used generically with singular countable nouns, and designates ‘any person or thing of the class’.

  • 1
    For the same reason we say we "dialed the wrong number", as if there were only one. I.e, it's an idiom. Don't expect any Why's. Aug 26, 2022 at 2:25

Although time can be a mass noun, in this case it isn't. It means occasion or period, both of which are countable.

Oxford Dictionaries:

time sense 2:
• (a time) an indefinite period:
   travelling always distorts one's feelings for a time

And there's Dickens:

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times...

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    Although I do not dispute your answer, I'm unhappy about your example. 1. Your example was for "times", not "time". 2. It is not obvious that the definite article qualifies "times" — you can write "It was the best", but not "It was the times". I appreciate that the construction is equivalent to "it was the best time", but as the formulation is different you would, I think, have done better to choose a straightforward example.
    – David
    Dec 4, 2021 at 9:56
  • @David The example reinforces that time is countable.
    – Andrew Leach
    Dec 4, 2021 at 10:13

In the English language, the word "time" can be used to describe our perception of things constantly changing around us (ex. "Time will not stop for anyone"), but when we break 'time' into discreet units (ex. a time), this means a finite period in which a specific thing or event happens. So telling someone to "have a good time" is essentially saying "I hope you have a good experience at your event". If you'd like to view the word Time used in this way more, listen to or search the lyrics for a song called "Turn, turn, turn" by the Byrds (ex. "A time for war, a time for peace")

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