We talk about news every day. Sometimes there’s good news, sometimes there’s bad news, and when it’s significant, we often call it “big news.” But have you ever wondered whether it is correct to say “a big news”?
It’s not correct to say “a big news” because “news” is a mass noun which means we cannot count it, and we cannot use the indefinite article “a” before it. We could, however, refer to “a big news story” if we were talking generally about a significant piece of information or to “the big news” if we were talking about a specific piece of significant information.
This article will explore the meaning of “news” and how and when we can refer to “big news.” We’ll also delve into indefinite and definite articles to understand this part of speech.
What Does “A Big News” Mean?
It’s not correct to use the phrase “a big news.” However, when we talk about “big news,” we are simply saying that the new information we have about something is significant.
The word “news” dates back to the 14th century when English translated it from the French “nouvelles,” meaning “new things.” At this time, it was plural, but by the 1500s, it emerged in the singular and came to mean “tidings of something that has lately taken place” (source).
Although there are literary references to some treating news as plural or even references to “a news” as “a piece of news,” those usages have fallen away, and we now consider them archaic.
Today, “news” refers to information about recent events. For instance, if we refer to “the news” generally, we are referring to recent events as the media broadcasts it (source).
Is It Grammatically Correct to Say “A Big News”?
It’s not grammatically correct to say “a big news” on its own because “news” is a mass noun that we cannot refer to with the indefinite article “a.”
Although it appears to be plural since it ends in -s, it is, in fact, an uncountable noun. Therefore, we can only use “a big news” when there’s a further noun attached, as in “a big news story.”
We can only use the indefinite article “a” or “an” with non-specific singular, countable nouns. We use the definite article “the” for specific nouns, whether they are singular or plural, countable or not. In our case, The Merriam-Webster Dictionary refers to “news” as “plural in form but singular in construction” (source).
The phrase “big news” is grammatically correct. Here, “big” is an adjective that qualifies the noun “news.”
If we refer to “a big news story” or “a big news event,” then “big” and “news” both function to qualify the nouns “story” or “event.” In these examples, “big” is an adjective, and “news” is a noun adjunct, meaning that it is a noun working like an adjective to modify another noun (source).
Is It Correct to Say “A News”?
It’s incorrect to say “a news” because we cannot precede “news” with an indefinite article as a mass or uncountable noun. Instead, we treat “news” as singular and specific, and, therefore, it either has no article or a definite article.
If we want to talk about just one incidence of new information, we must create a noun phrase like “a piece of news” or “a snippet of news.” In these examples, we are using the countable noun “piece” or “snippet” and can thus use “a” with it.
Likewise, we can refer to “three pieces of news” or “these snippets of news” in the plural. However, when “news” is on its own, it is neither singular nor plural because it is a mass noun.
What Is a Mass Noun?
Mass nouns, which grammarians also refer to as uncountable or noncount nouns, refer to concepts like love or news or homogenous substances such as oil or air (source). We can use the determiners “some” or “the” with mass nouns, but never “a” or “an.”
How Do You Use “A Big News”?
We use “a big news” when referring to “a big news story” or something similar. We would refer to “the big news” using the definite article “the” if we were talking about a significant specific piece of information.
It’s incorrect to use the phrase “a big news” on its own. You may ask someone, “have you heard the big news?” or “I bet you’d like to hear some big news,” but you could never refer to “a big news” unless the phrase preceded another noun such as “story” or “item.”
If you were referring to a significant piece of information, you would rather choose the determiners “the” or “some” to specify what news you are referring to.
Another mistake many English learners make is to assume that “news” takes a plural verb because it sounds like it should be plural. Like other mass nouns, “news” takes a singular verb. Therefore, we would say, “this is big news,” or “the news was bad.”
When Can You Use “A Big News”?
You can use “a big news” if you include another noun that qualifies “news.” Here, you could refer to “a piece of big news,” “a big news story,” or something similar. However, you can’t use the phrase “big news” on its own because we never use the indefinite article “a” for mass nouns.
The noun phrase “a piece of news” or “a bit of news” is no longer a mass noun. Once we qualify the news in this way, we are simply dealing with a normal count noun, and then we can use the indefinite article “a.”
In What Context Can You Use “A Big News”?
If you use more words to make the reference specific, you can use phrases such as “a big piece of news” or “a big news item” to talk about some new and significant piece of information. Still, there is no appropriate context where you could use the phrase “big news” on its own.
If, however, you used the definite article “the” and referred to “the big news,” then you would be talking about a single and specific piece of new information. An exchange using this phrase could look something like the following.
Person 1: Have you heard the big news?
Person 2: No, what happened?
Person 1: The Joneses are moving to Italy!
Using “A Big News” in a Full Sentence
As we’ve already discussed, we need to add other words before using the phrase “a big news.” Consider the sentences below where we have adapted the phrase to make it grammatically correct.
- I’ve got a big piece of news to share with you.
- I’m working on a big news story for the newspaper.
- She wants to announce a big news item tonight.
- I’m not sure I’m ready to hear a bit of big news.
When Not to Use “A Big News”
You should never use “a big news” as it stands. It’s only appropriate with other words that turn it from a mass noun to a countable noun. Even then, you also shouldn’t refer to “big news” if the news is not significant.
If we refer to “big news,” we imply that the information is newsworthy and important. On the other hand, if it’s just something trivial, we would just refer to “news” rather than “big news.”
What Can You Use Instead of “A Big News”?
Since “a big news” is not grammatically correct and there are only a few ways to adapt it to make it work in a sentence, you may want to consider alternatives.
Instead of “big news,” we could refer to “breaking news” or use adjectives like “good,” “exciting,” “important,” or “excellent.” If we assume that someone who says “a big news” is actually referring to a single significant news incident, we could use one of the following alternatives.
- An important current event
- A big story
- A piece of big news
- A noteworthy news item
- A significant news story
Idioms Containing “News”
Although “a big news” isn’t a phrase that you’ll see often, the concept of “news” is one that you will come across all the time. There are quite a few English idioms that contain “news” that will become familiar the more you hear and speak the language.
Here is a table of some of the most familiar as well as their meanings.
|Bad news||A person, thing, or situation that is troublesome.|
|No news is good news.||The assumption that not hearing information about something suggests nothing bad has happened and everything is going well.|
|That’s news to me.||That is something I was unaware of.|
|Good news||Something that is beneficial|
|Make news||To do something that would be worthy of being reported in the news.|
|Yesterday’s news||Something that is no longer of interest|
|Break (the) news||Reveal new information (often, but not always, implies that the news is bad)|
|Fake news||News reports that are presented as authentic but are fabricated|
Definite vs. Indefinite Articles
The biggest issue with the phrase “a big news” is that it makes incorrect use of the article “a.” Let’s dive deeper into definite and indefinite articles to understand how they differ.
In English, we use articles to specify whether we are talking about a general or specific noun. “A” and “an” are indefinite articles that we use to refer to a generic noun. “The” is a definite article that we use to refer to a specific noun (source).
We can only use “a” or “an” with singular countable nouns, and we can use “the” with singular or plural nouns that are countable or uncountable.
Countable nouns have singular and plural forms. Usually, we add -s or -es to singular nouns to create plurals, but there are some exceptions to this rule. Consider some examples or countable nouns and their plurals below.
- Dog → dogs (add -s)
- Box → boxes (add -es)
- Child → children (exception)
We cannot count uncountable nouns, and they do not have plural forms. Consider the examples below.
We use indefinite articles when we are being non-specific in referring to a noun. We use “a” when the noun starts with a consonant sound and “an” when the noun starts with a vowel sound.
For more on understanding “a” vs. “an,“ read our article “‘An Hour’ or ‘A Hour’: Proper Article Use.”
- I would like to become a doctor one day.
- Please pack an apple in your lunchbox (any apple).
- I think that’s an elephant on the horizon.
- Can you recite an American poem?
We use a definite article when we are being specific in referring to a noun. Here, the noun can be singular or plural.
- Let’s call the doctor as soon as possible.
- Please pack the apples in your lunchbox (those specific apples).
- The elephants did huge damage to the campsite.
- The American anthem is difficult to learn.
When Not to Use an Article
Articles are very useful when we want to specify something, but there are times when we don’t need to use articles at all. Such cases are usually when we refer to a plural, countable noun or an uncountable noun that is non-specific. This article was written for strategiesforparents.com.
Consider the examples below that show when we don’t use articles.
Plural, countable non-specific nouns:
- We need to buy eggs, cookies, and bananas.
- Dogs are always happy to see you come home.
- Australians tell great jokes.
Uncountable non-specific nouns:
- The recipe calls for flour, sugar, and milk.
- I’ll be at work waiting for news.
- Love was in the air last week.
It should be clear that “a big news” is not a usable phrase in English unless it qualifies another noun. It’s confusing because “news” takes a singular verb, but because it’s a mass noun, it cannot take an indefinite article.
We can, however, refer to “the big news” if we are referring to a specific piece of significant news, or we could say “a big piece of news” if we are referring to a non-specific piece of significant news.
Article usage is important for fluency in English and requires lots of practice before you can master it. They behave differently in most other languages, so you need to listen and read as much as possible to understand how to use English articles correctly.