Better Way To Say It, Reprise

I received some questions about a Tip of the Day in October, and I must apologize to Dmitry for not responding sooner. I’ve been saving it for when I temporarily run out of topics, which happens every now and then.

Here’s what Dmitry asked: I have a couple of questions:

1) “Zone A has a poor reservoir quality => Zone A has poor reservoir quality.” Okay, no article [is needed] because “quality” is an abstract noun? Why then do I often see sentences like “What a lovely weather!” Are they incorrect? I thought that you could put an indefinite article in cases when such nouns are modified.

2) “after the pump upsize => after the pump was upsized” Could one use a perfect tense form here as well?

3) “has been submitted this week => was submitted this week” Why? This week has not ended (at least, at the time when the report was written). I know that you cannot use Present Perfect when the exact time is indicated, as in “Steam injection has started Sept. 2 => Steam injection started Sept. 2,” but why can’t it be used here?

Here are my answers (and I had to do a lot of research to come up with them):

1) Indefinite articles like “a” and “an” are used to refer to non-specific nouns. If you say “a well,” it can mean any well (a non-specific well), whereas if you say “the well,” you are talking about a specific well and need to use a definite article. So in our example, if you are specifically talking about the quality of Zone A, a non-specific indefinite article does not fit. Likewise, if you are talking about the weather today being lovely, that is specific, so the indefinite article “a” would not fit. I usually hear “What lovely weather!”

However, I also often hear “What a great suggestion!” or “What a nice day!” One could argue that these folks are speaking about a particular (specific) suggestion or day, so the non-specific indefinite article argument doesn’t hold up. I’m going to reason that suggestions and days are countable, whereas weather and reservoir quality are not countable items. Therefore, if the noun is not countable, it doesn’t need an indefinite article, which one reference defined as “one of a number of the same.”

2) The present perfect tense would be “after the pump has been upsized.” You would use this tense if you are planning to do something in the future, but you are waiting for a bigger pump to be installed. The past perfect tense would be “after the pump had been upsized.” You would use this tense if both the upsizing and the thing done afterwards are both in the past, which is probably the case in the weekly status report from whence this example came. So yes, you could use either the simple past passive (was upsized) or the past perfect passive (had been upsized) for this. Simpler is always better, though.

3) The same thing applies here. “Has been submitted” is the present perfect passive, whereas “was submitted” is the simple past passive. If the time is specified (this week), then use the simple past (was submitted this week). If the time is unspecified, use the present perfect (has been submitted).

Lastly, Dmitry, you had more than “a couple of” questions. Couple usually means two joined together or a pair, often referring to a husband and wife. Example: What a nice couple! It would be better to say a “few” questions, which means more than two, but you can still count them on one hand.

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