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The article

Could you please tell me which one is correct? 
A terrible flu
The terrible flu


  • @AliNateghi, flu (like the long form influenza) is regarded as an UNCOUNTABLE NOUN.

    If you want to count, you can only say
    one, two, three strains of flu
    one, two, three cases of flu
    one, two, bouts of flu
    one, two three outbreaks of flu
    one, two, three epidemics of flu

    The grammar of disease names is a little odd. We can both I had flu and I had the flu.
    There's the same choice for several diseases that have been named for a long time. For example:

    (the) measles, (the) whooping cough, (the) chicken pox, (the) gout.

    But we can't use the when the disease name is technical or modern. We don't say for example:

    the arthritis, the laryngitis, the malaria, the aids, the ebola.

    There are also some conditions with older or more familiar names that we don't see as diseases, so we don't use the. For example:

    a cold, a chill, a fever, a temperature.

    But when we see cold as a disease, we call it the cold or the common cold, never just common cold.

    So there's an interesting grammatical difference between plague and bubonic plague.
    We can say the plague but (usually) not the bubonic plague.

    So the terrible flu means 'the terrible disease called flu'.
    For a more specific meaning we have to say the terrible strain of flu or the terrible case of flu.
    We can also say the terrible outbreak of flu or (with a slightly different meaning) the outbreak of terrible flu.

    I you want to describe an experience using terrible, you can't use either article.

    I had terrible flu.

    (Although you can say I had a terrible bout of flu.)

  • DavidCrosbieDavidCrosbie ✭✭✭
    edited September 2018

    Here's an example of different grammar for flu combined with the.

    A TV programme advertised for next week has the title The Flu That Killed 50 Million.

    In this context flu means 'epidemic of flu'. The article the is necessary because of the POSTMODIFYING PHRASE that killed 50 million.

    This was a truly terrible epidemic, so we can say

    • the terrible flu of 1918the because of the POSTMODIFIER of 1918
    • the terrible Spanish Fluthe because it's the name of a disease

    In another context, we can use flu to mean 'strain of flu'. So, when talking about the flu vaccine prepared for the coming year, some people ask whether it will work for the flu that they've been having in Australia.

    When flu is used to mean 'epidemic of flu' or 'strain of flu', then it becomes a COUNTABLE NOUN.

  • edited September 2018

    The terrible flu is most suitable. Countable noun are used by a or an. for example Facebook is a type of Social Media.

  • I disagree @sullah_ranjha114.

    • Flu is not often used as a COUNTABLE NOUN.
    • When COUNTABLE it usually means 'strain of flu'.
    • Unusually, it can mean 'epidemic of flu'.

    Only in the sense of 'epidemic' is it possible to write something like The Flu that Killed Millions or the terrible flu of 1918.

    In the UNCOUNTABLE sense of flu we can choose whether to include the:

    I had flu
    I had the flu

    But if we add terrible, then only one construction is possible:

    I had terrible flu
    but not
    I had the terrible flu

  • Actually, it depends on the disease.

    We all know that flu is not always terrible. But some diseases are always terrible — or we may believe them to be always terrible.
    So I can say

    they caught terrible dengue fever = 'they caught dengue fever and it was terrible'
    they caught the terrible dengue fever = 'they caught dengue fever, which is a terrible disease'

    I can't say I had the terrible flu because I can't mean 'I had flu, which is a terrible disease'.

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