Nouns that can be used as countable and uncountable.

When ‘memory’ means ‘the ability to remember’, it’s uncountable. Why do we use an article ‘a’ before it then?
Example: 1. I have A very good visual memory.
2. I have A terrible memory.

Why do we use ‘a’ here then? Shouldn’t it be like ‘I have very good visual memory’ since it’s uncountable?

Thanks in advance.


  • Look up memory in the Dictionary part of this website. Various senses are countable; others uncountable (mass). The first section is

    1The faculty by which the mind stores and remembers information.
    ‘I've a great memory for faces’
    mass noun ‘the brain regions responsible for memory’

    1.1 The mind regarded as a store of things remembered.
    ‘he searched his memory frantically for an answer’

  • What about the word 'knowledge'? I know this is an uncountable noun. Why is it used with an article like in this sentence? 'I have a limited knowledge of English.'
  • @mnahid89, you don't

    know that this is an uncountable noun

    You know that it is usually an uncountable noun.

    The uncountable noun knowledge refers to an abstraction — not a specific thing enjoyed by an individual. That's why we don't usually speak about knowledges.

    Knowledge of English is more specific, but still not enjoyed by an individual.

    But when you talk about a specific area of knowledge enjoyed by a specific individual, then it becomes exactly like the first word you asked about:

    She has an excellent memory.
    She has an excellent knowledge of English.

    Very many nouns that are usually uncountable can change into countable nouns in particular contexts. The best way to make progress in English is to notice these exceptions and learn to use them.

    And remember that it is not English to say
    I have good memory.
    I have knowledge of English.

  • @DavidCrosbie, thanks again. Your explanation helped me a lot.

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