English as a Second Language/Indefinite article


Dear Jed,

1. "This area is protected because it is the habitat of a rare type of bird."

2. "Make notes about your choice of area".

In the above both "bird" and "area" are singular countable nouns.  They are not plural nouns which makes us leave the article out and not abstact nouns , too.

Best regards,
Antoine Ghannoum

PS what is the plural of 'cat's eye' (a small object in the road). Is it "cat's eyes?" Also, can I say "a cat's eye"?

Dear Antoine,

In 'Practical English Usage', Michael Swan says:

"The article 'a/an' is normally dropped after 'sort of', 'kind of' and 'type of', but structures with an article are possible in an informal style:

'That's a funny sort of (a) car).'
'What sort of (a) bird is that?'

When we are talking about one sort of thing, we can use 'sort of', 'kind of' and 'type of' followed by a singular noun:

'This sort of car is enormously expensive to run.'
'I'm interested in any new type of development in computer science.'

Singular 'sort of', 'kind of' and 'type of' can also be followed by plural nouns, especially in an informal style:

'I'm interested in any new kind of developments ... .' "

The plural of "cat's eye" is "cat's eyes".

With best wishes,


English as a Second Language

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Jed Webb


I can assist with questions about English grammar (syntax, morphology, pronunciation and spelling)from learners taking such examinations as TOEFL, IELTS, FCE and CAE and other internationally recognised tests.


I have over forty years of experience in the teaching of modern languages, twenty-four of them in the Teaching of English as a Second Language. I have been an examiner for FCE, BEC and IELTS examinations, and a teacher trainer on courses leading to the Trinity College Certificate in TESOL.

The Philological Society The International Phonetic Association The College of Teachers The International Association of Teachers of EFL The Royal Society of Arts (Fellow)

British Journal of Language Teaching, Vol XIX Nos I and II Education Today, Vol 41, Nos 1 and 3 Co-Author: Nix and Webb (1984) 'Creative English', Bad Homburg: Verlag Gehlen Contributor: Nix and Riederer (1973), 'Bottoms Up', Bad Homburg: Verlag Gehlen Rosenau and Nix, (1979), 'Look it up', Bad Homburg: Verlag Gehlen Nix and Ringholz, 'English in Projects', Bad Homburg: Verlag Gehlen

BA (English), University of Durham. Qualified Teacher Status, UK Department of Education and Science Further and Adult Education Teacher's Certificate, City and Guilds of London Institute ACP(TESOL), College of Preceptors Dip TESOL, Trinity College, London Dip Ed (ELT), Exeter University ACP (Management Studies in Education), College of Teachers Certificate of Proficiency in the Phonetics of English, International Phonetic Association

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I have taught: General and Business English classes for: Alcan, Allianz Versicherung, Robert Bosch, Daimler-Benz, Ford, Hewlett Packard, Kodak, Mövenpick, Radiomobil (O2), Siemens, Unilever. TOEFL and FCE classes for: eská Spoitelna,SOB, Czech Ministry of Trade, Czech Statistics Office.

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